Saturday, October 16, 2010

New Huan Zhu Ge Ge - *Facepalm* plot points that will ruin the remake for me

Ever since Qiong Yao announced the remake of Huan Zhu Ge Ge, I've angsted enough over the wtf were they thinking inappropriate casting, the ugly poor costuming and make up, non-existent lacking chemistry and the fact that there is a remake at all. By now I've pretty resigned to the cast et al, and if it ever comes out in Viet-sub or Viet-dub I will probably still end up watching it just for the laugh, but I know I won't enjoy it. Just what I know of the plot at this moment is already enough for me to headdesk so many times that it's a wonder I don't have a massive bruise on my forehead.

DISCLAIMER: This post is only correct as far as with the information I had at the moment of writing this. New information of the remake had since come out, though it does alleviate certain fears, it doesn't make the remake sound any more attractive to me.

1997 vs 2010

(Of course, a lot of this is speculations building on just hints of the plot, but Qiong Yao plots aren't that hard to guess...)

1. Benjamin

Let's get some facts straight here. HZGG takes place in Qian Long's court in the 1700s. Qian Long was notoriously famous for his attitude towards foreigners. He thought China was the centre of the universe and all other countries, especially those "barbarians" in the West, were inferior. So there is no way in hell that there will be a Western painter in his court, much less that said painter (Benjamin) would be allowed to hang around the palace often enough to become best friends with Yong Qi, Qian Long's favourite son (which was also a fact, not something that Qiong Yao made up!) and chatting up his daughters. (Oh, let's stick a Caucasian guy playing the violin the middle of Qian Long's court!)

Yo, baby, you wanna go out with me?

I could pass off Benjamin's existence in this remake under artistic suspension of disbelief, but Qiong Yao practically ruined that chance with a blog entry announcing her reasons for including this Benjamin character. It was because she met the actor who played him at a party and was so astounded at his ability to speak Chinese fluently that she decided to write him a part in the remake. 

Yeah. That's a stupid reason, as far as I'm concerned. It's like the writers of Ly Cong Uan - Road to Thang Long writing in a part for Joe Ruelle just because he speaks good Vietnamese. Ok, the comparison is a little unbalanced, considering Road to Thang Long is a more serious production than HZGG, but still. The reason for Benjamin's existence is still stupid. 

There's a rumour somewhere that Xiao Yan Zi speaks English in this remake as a result of Benjamin being there. Please, no. Just, no. She can't even speak Mandarin "properly", why would she learn English? Wouldn't she be better off learning Manchurian anyway? 

2. Xin Rong 

Apparently Qiong Yao is determined to make me hate Yong Qi and Xiao Yan Zi. Why? Because she invented this Xin Rong Ge Ge out of nowhere. And according to released information, Xin Rong is a typical lady of the court, a favourite with both Yong Qi's mother and grandmother. Yong Qi's mother also arranged a marrige between the two of them since they were children.

That's right. Yong Qi is engaged. Yong Qi is engaged to Xin Rong, and in comes Xiao Yan Zi. 

Somehow, somehow, Yong Qi and Xiao Yan Zi will end up together, regardless of Xin Rong. And I'm pretty sure with Qiong Yao writing this, Xin Rong won't simply back off just because Yong Qi is in love with Xiao Yan Zi. Oh no, it will be love triangle galore a la Qiong Yao. 

If they stayed true to character, this triangle would then be impossible. 

(1) Yong Qi has to know he has an arranged marriage to Xin Rong

(2) If he knows this and still makes a move for Xiao Yan Zi then he's a jerk, thus out of character. (If he knows this, falls in love with Xiao Yan Zi and angsts silently but doesn't take action then Qiong Yao is wasting her time because the plot will then not move.)

(3) If he makes a move for Xiao Yan Zi and fails to mention Xin Rong and the arranged marriage then he is even a bigger jerk. And when Xiao Yan Zi finds out she should have no problem dumping him. 

(4) If he makes a move for Xiao Yan Zi and does mention Xin Rong then there is no way Xiao Yan Zi, in her right mind, would accept his feelings, let alone return them. A more appriopriate reaction (that is, if she was in character) would be to slap him and tell him to shod off. No, Xiao Yan Zi will not care he is a prince.  

But seeing how we know that Yong Qi and Xiao Yan Zi will end up together, we know that (1) and (2) will happen and (3) and (4) probably will not. So now we have a love triangle of Xiao Yan Zi-Yong Qi-Xin Rong. Woohoo. Not.

 It doesn't help that the actress who plays Xin Rong is a lot prettier than Li Sheng who plays Xiao Yan Zi. Haizzz

I have written love triangles with Yong Qi and Xiao Yan Zi in fanfic before but both times it was in reaction to the way Qiong Yao writes them in HZGGIII. As far as I'm concerned, Yong Qi and Xiao Yan Zi have enough problem without love triangles getting in the way. The difference in their social positions, upbringings and character alone creates a myriad of problems enough to last a lifetime, even before you pull in the whole Romeo-Juliet factor of her father opposing the Emperor and thus was executed for treason. 

I don't need Yong Qi to prove anything by giving up Xin Rong to be with Xiao Yan Zi. He already proved that he would give up the throne for her, how would Xin Rong compare to that? I don't need Xiao Yan Zi to prove anything by choosing to be with Yong Qi despite of Xin Rong. I don't need a love triangle to believe in their love story, to believe that their love is real. Why can't Qiong Yao realise that it was Yong Qi and Xiao Yan Zi themselves that charmed her fans all those years ago, to the point that we still care enough today, thirteen years later, to feel outraged at this sudden development? 

Not to mention, if Yong Qi has a prior engagement, that means Xiao Yan Zi is "the other woman". This is the 18th century, people. Engaged = practically married. I am not watching HZGG to see Xiao Yan Zi waltz in and steal someone's husband. 

And I will bet anything that somehow along with all this, Xin Rong will be portrayed as evil/the antagonist. It doesn't matter that she was there first, it doesn't matter that she's only going to try to take back what was hers to begin with, she will somehow come up with crazy schemes to win Yong Qi back and that will be considered evil. Why? Because Xiao Yan Zi is the title and main character of course.  

If she doesn't do anything to win Yong Qi back she will end up this pathetic, pitiful girl who is weak and then shoved together with some random guy who just happens to hang around in a contrived romance to get her off Yong Qi's hands. 

I'm not sure which would be more painful to watch. Both scenarios would be so typical Qiong Yao.

And then there's a rumour that Xin Rong hangs herself. If that happens, I will cry. If that happens, I will want to kill Yong Qi. But I don't think even Qiong Yao could make that happen (touch wood). Still, the end result will probably be like a combination of Elinor Dashwood-Edward Ferrars-Lucy Steele and Leah Clearwater-Sam Uley-Emily. I can only hope somehow Yong Qi and Xiao Yan Zi will retain some of Elinor and Edward's dedency. Either way, Xin Rong will end up with the most pain, which will make me hate Xiao Yan Zi and Yong Qi anyway. Thanks, Auntie Qiong Yao, for ruining your two best characters for me. 

3. Love Triangles

Even more love triangles. Or polygon. Or something. 

You would think that love triangle up there with Xin Rong is complicated enough, but Benjamin has to be in love/has a crush on Xiao Yan Zi too. Huh?

Seriously, do either of these guys look like they're in love, or is one just leering at her, and other just staring off into space? If they're this unconvincing in a photo, how painful will it be to watch in motion?

My biggest question is, What's the point?!

Qiong Yao proclaim to have changed 70% of the plot but she can't very well change the established relationships, not if she wants to keep viewers. We know all Xiao Yan Zi will do is act like her normal clueless self and somehow lead poor Benjamin on but will end up with Yong Qi anyway. 

Huan Zhu Ge Ge is not a love story. Let me repeat that, Huan Zhu Ge Ge is not a love story!

It's a story about Zi Wei looking for her father and all the complications along the way, which just happens to include both her and Xiao Yan Zi falling in love. The point of it is not romance. And that's what made HZGG so successful, that's why people still talk about it today, when all other Qiong Yao work has sunk into the backdrop. It's about more than just Qiong Yao's normal melodramatic, over-the-top, it-doesn't-matter-if-the-whole-world-is-falling-apart romances. 

4. Yong Qi's mother

When I heard that Lin Xin Ru was playing Yu He, mother of Zi Wei (the character Xin Ru herself played in the old version), I laughed and wondered what on earth she was thinking. Does she want to be associated with HZGG for the rest of her career? (That is already happenning anyway, but wouldn't the normal course of action would then be to try to get out of that typecast?)

When I heard that Qin Lan was playing Xiao Yan Zi's mother, I headdesked because of the bizarre and baffling casting choice. I think it's totally inappropriate that the actress who played Xiao Yan Zi's love rival in Part III of the old version should turn around to play her mother in the remake. But I could live with it, since it was only a guest role. And guest role usually meant walk on, do a scene, walk off. 

But then they casted Yong Qi's mother, Yu Fei. I don't know the actress. But my problem was not with the actress. It's with the fact that Yong Qi has a mother at all.

In the old version, Qiong Yao killed Yong Qi's mother off while in history she really lived to be 79 years old. Ok, so now she's alive and it's historically correct. But does that mean that Qiong Yao will be able to really kill Yong Qi off at age 25 too to keep it totally historically correct? 

We all know what happened at the end of HZGGIII. Yong Qi left his family, the palace, his title, the throne to live as a normal person outside the palace with Xiao Yan Zi. Already, as it was at the end of HZGGIII, I have major problems with this decision. Looking beyond the romantic gesture, he's abandoning a lot. His father, his son, his responsibility, his people. There's more to being an Emperor than just getting a huge inheritence of money, there's a chance to do something good for the country and he's giving that up. But ok, I get it, Qiong Yao was restricted by the historical fact that real, historical Yong Qi died at age 25, so in fiction, she has to make him leave so that the palace could announce his "death". 

But now add his mother to the list of things he's abandoning. The decision suddenly becomes 100 times worst. 

Qian Long has a lot of sons (well, not really, by that time he doesn't have that many left alive). But still, without Yong Qi, he still has his choices of sucessors. But Yu Fei only has one child. Yong Qi.

Qian Long doesn't like Yu Fei, however Yong Qi is his favourite son. Her only source of comfort and protection in the palace therefore is her son, Yong Qi. 

And what does he do? He falls in love and runs off with Xiao Yan Zi. Yu Fei must accept what the rest of the world is led to believe, that he "died". And we wonder why Yu Fei might not like Xiao Yan Zi?

I don't care if it's true love. I don't care how bad it was in the palace for Xiao Yan Zi. If Yong Qi does this, I will cry. Again. 

I would like to think that Qiong Yao would not make Yong Qi so heartless as to leave his mother in the end. But the fact that Qiong Yao already let Yong Qi leave his own son at the end of HZGGIII does not assure me. 

This is where I hope desperately that the 70% that Qiong Yao decides to change of the plot includes how she will "finish off" Yong Qi in the end. Like maybe kill him off for real. I really would rather he dies for real, and somehow that pulls Xiao Yan Zi and Yu Fei closer together or something, than that he leaves the palace for Xiao Yan Zi, abandoning Yu Fei (and Xin Rong...and who knows who else too?). I mean, seriously, there has to be a way for Yong Qi to love Xiao Yan Zi and not be totally bất hiếu (bu xiao) in the process! 

I guess after all this rambling, the point is that Qiong Yao is falling way, way, way back into her zone of comfort. That is, melodramatic, saccharine, shiver-inducing sweet romances with lots of tears, love triangles, jealousy and implausibility, where romantic love is the only thing that matters in life and should triumph over everything, literally. She even admits it on her blog, that this will be "the most romantic love story of the Qing dynasty era!" In Qiong Yao talk, that means I won't like it. 

The old version wasn't without flaws. The old HZGG did many times go into Qiong Yao realm of melodrama but still, the cast made it enjoyable. Most of the new cast don't even look convincing in their part, so I don't know what we will end up with when we put them in this new plot. Wait and see, I suppose.

Am I being overly pessimistic about this remake, despite professing myself to be optimistic? Probably. But I won't lie. Half of the success of the old version for me was due to the cast, so with the new cast, it was hard to be convinced in the first place. Then comes the plot summaries. They don't do much to make me curious, just enough to make me cringe. But you never know, someone who has never seen the old version might actually like this version. Either way, lots of people will watch it, whether I like it or not, whether they like it or not, just simply to see what they come up with.

Meanwhile, I am back to hoping that the HZGG Subbing Team will come around to doing English-sub for HZGGII.