The Man In Wang Xiao Jian
Love Is Not Blind (失恋33天) is a recent box office hit. The romantic comedy follows Huang Xiao Xian in the next 33 days after her long-time boyfriend dumped her. She eventually finds love from her colleague, Wang Yi Yang, nicknamed Wang Xiao Jian (Jian贱 means despicable or cheap).
The portrayal of Wang Xiao Jian is particularly interesting in that a de-masculinized figure wins over the beauty. Wang Xiao Jian has a small build, dresses fashionably and the highlight of this character is the effeminate mannerisms and almost shrewish behavior (hence his nickname).
It raises questions over traditional notions of masculinity. Do men have to be women in order to win their hearts? Some interesting comments have appeared on Weibo.
@大盗潮流语录 felt that “If you want to win over your dream girl, just follow Wang Xiao Jian and pretend to be gay.” @TerranceCheung noted that, “…the best way to chase after girls is to pretend to be gay. Because the kind of guys that girls like is Wang Xiao Jian.”
Perhaps some viewers may be missing the point. It’s not about becoming feminine. There is a man in Wang Xiao Jian. And it is the man who won over the beauty.
The Manly Quality
Traditional notion of Chinese masculinity is structured on two equal yet opposing qualities*. Wen 文 – is associated with literary attainment, while Wu 武, is martial valor. Ideal Chinese male-ness is one who can hold a brush in one hand and a sword in another.
This is very much Wang Xiao Jian. Where he lacks the physical athleticism in martial combat, he makes up with a venomous tongue in oratorical prowess.
When Huang was forced to take outrageous requests from a client, Wang Xiao Jian stood up for her and chided the client. In another instance, Wang Xiao Jian lashed a scathing verbal attack on Huang’s ex-boyfriend, in an effort to take revenge for her. What made the scene memorable was a burly ex-boyfriend rendered speechless by a small, bespectacled Wang Xiao Jian.
Not only does it show the qualities of a man, it also reflects a quality that modern society and companies increasingly hold in high regard – that of being vocal.
The Independent, New-Age Man
Traditionally, man brings food to the table while woman takes care of the house. There was once when the bachelor’s pad used to be lined with worn clothes, reeked of unfinished food and characterized by an empty refrigerator.
But modern interpretations of masculinity refined the image of the man. The modern day bachelor pad is now clean, stylish and probably has a coffee-maker. The modern man knows how to take care of himself – with or without the help from women. The quintessential modern day man can be seen in Daniel Wu’s character from Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.
It is not just about doing household chores; it is about independence and having the knowledge of leading a modern day life, treating themselves properly. Especially in China’s context, where people migrate to big cities on their own to start a new life and career, it is important for man to be able to lead a good life of their own.
In this sense, Wang Xiao Jian veers closer to the image of modern man. He seeks to live in a stylish apartment, he looks after his appearance and he knows how to cook (or at the very least, desserts).
In one scene he single-handedly packed Huang’s dirty apartment. Huang sarcastically remarked that it scared her to think that a man can be so thorough in household chores. To which Wang Xiao Jian replied, applying hand cream at the same, “The main thing is that you are too callous, totally unlike a woman. I thoroughly enjoyed the process.”
I’m effeminate, but I’m still a Man
Wang Xiao Jian possesses manly qualities and most importantly, he understands the woman he loves and is always by her side. “No matter what happens in future, you always find, within a meter distance, me.”
And this is perhaps the elusive quality that women are looking for. @劲dj5dj29 said, “Now everyone is looking for a Wang Xiao Jian, quietly standing behind you, standing up for you.” @黄三珊HsS said that she also wants a Wang Xiao Jian, “at the moment when you’re down, he’d say to me ‘I’d be there with you’.
Wang Xiao Jian may be effeminate, but it is his manly qualities that won Huang over.
*References in the article made from Yao Souchou’s review of Kam Louie’s Theorising Chinese Masculinity: Society and Gender in China