Mainland China’s surprisingly mixed reception of Taiwanese hit “Fated to Love You”

Unlike the wide latitude given to various forms of entertainment in neighboring East Asian countries Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan, growing economic power China is known for its government’s strict approval of media before their citizens can enjoy them legally.  How producers of entertainment content have responded to this is diverse in nature: producers of upcoming Taiwanese dramas “Pandamen” and “Down with Love” edited their content in order to please Chinese regulators and tap into the country’s vast viewership, while famed Warner Bros. Studio chose to cancel the release of their acclaimed Hollywood movie “The Dark Knight” instead of addressing Chinese regulators' remark on the “cultural sensitivities in some elements of the film”.

It therefore doesn’t come as a surprise that by the time Taiwanese drama sensation “Fated to Love You” reached mainland Chinese shores almost two years after its ratings explosion in Taiwan, the well-known “bed scene” between lead actors Ethan Ruan and Chen Qiao En would receive the ax.  For Chinese netizens who have already watched the classic drama through non-official means on the web, reactions to the government’s censorship was expectedly met with backlash.  And despite the original reaction by Qiao En’s manager that the move would confuse the audience on the plot, he later relented and grudgingly accepted the government’s action for the drama.

The move on Hunan TV -- the broadcasting company that is airing “Fated” -- to even release the drama after almost two years comes as a surprise, both because of the long delay since its original broadcast in Taiwan, and because of its already existent popularity in China due to the drama being viewed by numerous netizens through online streaming sites (e.g., Youku, Tudou) and peer-to-peer networks (e.g., PPStream).

When “Fated” first aired in Taiwan, viewers’ obsession with the drama was already well-documented.   Its original broadcast in Taiwan broke numerous ratings records as an idol drama, and not only did it hold the top ratings slot for 15 consecutive episodes, but it also hit an unprecedented 10.93% in one episode that might not be replicated by another Taiwanese drama for quite some time, if ever.  But while the drama had already achieved legendary status with viewers there, the same universal acclaim cannot be said for viewers in China.

For one thing, many Chinese netizens on mainland Chinese-based streaming sites had already commented that they weren’t impressed with Ethan Ruan -- either naked or clothed -- and also included suggestions that the series would have been “perfect” had it starred previous idol drama king Ming Dao instead.  Other Chinese netizens also felt political about the drama itself, with one Chinese netizen decrying an assumed politically-charged dialogue line: “The actor’s lines are like ‘We want to march on China’, [as if though Taiwanese] are not the same as Chinese people.  Is it possible that they’re half-breeds?  Everybody should quickly wash their eyes.”

It’s surprising how the universal obsession of “Fated” in Taiwan has not only not carried over to viewers in China, but in fact has viewers with such polarizing stances.  One thing’s for certain though: “fate” won’t let lightning strike twice for the Ethan and Qiao En classic.

Source: WSJ, chinatimes, UDN, CBC
Image Source: iFensi

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