Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Queens

I've often wondered why Taiwanese dramas don't have the kind of following that Korean and Japanese dramas have. I suppose one problem is that very few of the Taiwanese dramas are translated into English — I usually have to go to sites like which stream in videos that have been translated by fans. These are great because the obsessive fans will even explain cultural contexts and puns. It's really too bad that TV production companies don't utilize their fans more. The production companies go so far as to see these fans as pests that need to be killed, when really, these fans are part of a huge network that make their products accessible worldwide and thus, even more popular. Yes, they're infringing on copyright, but thinking only of that is so stupid. These companies are petrified that they're losing money, but really, they aren't because none of us in the US would ever have known about these shows anyway. In reality, the production companies are losing money because of their closed-mindedness and sheer stupidity. What they really should be doing is advertising their complete boxed DVD sets on these sites, making it as easy as possible for us to buy these shows, either as DVDs or downloads.

Now what was I talking about? Oh, yes. Taiwanese dramas and my new favorite, The Queens, which is on ICN, evenings 7:30PM Pacific time. Hallelujah! It's subtitled! Not very well, but at least understandable (the person or program that did the subtitles has no understanding of the past or present tense).  I think The Queens is Taiwanese and that it was a huge deal in Taiwan.  "I think" because there's almost no info in English about these shows.  But with help from friends, I gather that the show is called 母儀天下, which roughly translates as "be the model mother of the nation".  Apparently, this is what you say to a Chinese empress, sort of like "God save the Queen".

The story is basically about a super nice girl who's thrown into a nest of vipers.  Will the super nice girl survive?  And if so, will she stay super nice?  The girl is Wang_Zhengjun and she's based an a real historical person, the Empress Wang_Zhengjun who ruled in the latter part of the Western Han dynasty.  But I think the name is about the only historically accurate part of the drama.  Like in the show, she's a maid, serving the royal concubines.  But she was more accurately a lady-in-waiting and not a maid, which makes her rise to empress a little bit more understandable.  But, you know, being a put-upon maid is so much more dramatic — like she can be unfairly tortured and have an implausible story about how her mom was wrongfully beheaded for killing a previous empress, etc.

The Queens isn't just about Zhengjun.  It's also about her five best friends and their relentless cat fights as they vie for the attention of the emperor.  Basically, this drama is chick flick with lots of vicious cat fights and gorgeous costumes with two hunky guys in the middle.  And there is something so sumptuous about this drama, in the lighting, the music, the language, the cinematography, the choreography — even a summer's stroll is exquisitely choreographed.  Watching this show is like being transported into a fairyland.

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