CULTURE Chinese TV series 'All Is Well' sparks debate on traditional family values in modern China


Chinese TV series 'All Is Well' sparks debate on traditional family values in modern China

Global Times

04:13, March 15, 2019


Promotional material for All Is Well. (Photo: IC)

As China's economy has developed over the years, it has naturally had a huge impact on many aspects of the country's society. This is especially true when it comes to traditional family dynamics. Where traditionally three generations living under one roof was considered the norm, economic realities today see young adults leaving their hometowns and their parents to pursue careers in big cities. And when these adults eventually marry and have kids, the amount of time they must focus on work makes childcare a major issue. Some parents solution has been to have their own parents step in to raise their children, leading to a rise in China's so-called "left-behind children." 

By tackling head on many of the issues facing families in China today, a recent TV drama which debuted on Zhejiang Satellite TV, Jiangsu Satellite TV and Chinese streaming platform Youku on March 1 has grabbed the attention of many viewers, many of whom have remarked how realistic the show has been in depicting the conflicts and problems among Chinese family members. 

All Is Well currently has an 8.4/10 on Chinese media review platform Douban and has become a major trending topic on social media, which some related hashtags being viewed hundreds of millions of times. 

Many netizens have applauded the show for breaching relevant topics, such as traditional Chinese families' preference for boys over girls, kenlao (adult children who depend on their parents financially) and generational conflicts when it comes to providing care for the elderly. 

Under one roof 

There is an old saying in China: "sons are raised to support their parents during old age." 

According to traditional Chinese values, it is the responsibility of adult children to take care of their parents as the latter get older. It is not uncommon in China to see a young married couple have at least one of their parents live with them. 

Wei Ping, a 28-year-old entertainment manager told the Global Times that he thinks many people in China would feel that they weren't living up to their responsibilities if they didn't allow their parents to live with them after they got married. 

In the TV series, the 60-something father chooses to live with his second son and his daughter-in-law even though he is still healthy enough to take care of himself. Conflicts arise partially due to different habits and the younger couple constantly feels exhausted when it comes to satisfying the older man's demands.

Different from Wei's thoughts on the matter, Wang Liye, a 23-year-old MSc graduate and a fan of the show, noted that it's becoming gradually more common for adult children and their parents to feel that it is not necessary to live together. 

"It's hard for parents and children to live peacefully under the same roof, especially when the mother can't get along well with her daughter-in-law, which is a typical problem in Chinese families," said Wang.

Wang, however, did see how living together could be a mutually beneficial relationship. 

"It would be really nice and take some pressure off if parents could take care of their grandchildren for their working children," Wang noted.

Preference for sons 

According to the above saying, it's the son who is responsible for supporting his parents. For this reason, in the eyes of many traditional Chinese parents, boys were often seen as being more valuable than girls. This issue is also reflected in the show.

"The daughter Mingyu does so many things for the whole family, but her two older brothers still don't care much about her and neither does her father," Wang noted while sharing her opinions on the show. 

Both Wang and Wei feel that it is still very common for Chinese parents to put their sons' interests before their daughters. 

"It's such a pity that many older sisters don't get the attention they deserve from their parents," said Wang. 

Wei noted, however, that there are exceptions. He mentioned that he has a friend who got married and the couple were actually very happy to have two girls.    

Giant infants

One hot topic of discussion concerning the show is how the second son in the family depends on his parents even though he is already in his 30s. 

Unlike his younger sister, he is good at flattering his mom and often butters her up to convince her to give him money to buy a house or a car.

This is called kenlao in Chinese, which literally means "gnawing the old." 

Many Chinese netizens have criticized this type of character, which are often referred to as "giant infants" in China, and his inability to stand on his own. 

However, in Wang's eyes, the second son has some redeemable qualities. For example, he took good care of his father when the latter lived with him for a while. 

In recent years, the so-called giant infant phenomenon has become a hot topic of discussion in China. Although Chinese parents devote a lot of time and energy to their children's welfare, some people end up becoming overly reliant on their parents.

Wei said in China, it is acceptable for an adult child to get support from their parents under certain conditions, such as pursuing a career. 

"This is a show in which each main character has their own issues that are very typical of Chinese families," said Wang.

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