Some of you may recognise talented actress Tao Hong as the dragon maiden from rom-com Sunny Piggy 春光灿烂猪八戒 (2000), which also propelled her husband and actor-director Xu Zheng to fame, or as Ji Xiaofu in Heaven Sword Dragon Sabre 2003. The actress recently returned to mainstream television as a controlling single mother in A Little Reunion, a critically and commercially successful slice-of-life drama that focuses on the stressful relationship between parents and teenagers on the cusp of high school graduation.
I’ve translated some excerpts from the actress’ recent interview, in which she shares her views on the entertainment industry and the situation faced by many older actresses in the industry.
On the limited roles offered to mature actresses:
The problem of a lack of roles for mature actresses has always existed. It isn’t exactly a problem exclusive to the entertainment industry, nor is it something restricted to actors or actresses. It’s become a problem because society has overlooked and not given enough respect to certain issues. The traditional status of women as housewives is anchored in history, and given the patriarchal society, cinema would often focus on the more masculine elements. Apart from Dream of the Red Chambers, the majority of works in traditional Chinese culture do not revolve around women – the lack of understanding meant such stories often became maudlin tear-jerkers.
The popularity of youth within Asian culture is not something we should be celebrating – it only goes to show how immature and childish men can be. I don’t mean to attack anyone, but the attitude is part of the problem…
…They aren’t truly aware of the lives of women. Therefore, the analysis, reflection and literature that comes with awareness is limited. Without good literary works, it’s impossible to hope for good characters onscreen.
On her role as Song Qian in A Little Reunion:
Song Qian is a very traditional Chinese mother. The supposed mentality that “men should go out to work while women should take care of the housework” is based on the assumption that women do not work. Now that women have started working, they have already taken up the same social responsibilities as men. Yet domestic chores are still largely the responsibility of women; true balance in the household has yet to be achieved. When women take a step forward, men should have taken a step back to balance the scales.
When Song Qian slapped her daughter, it was an outburst of bottled up emotions. She had been repressing her emotions for too long because she always aspired to be the perfect mother. Song Qian is weighed down by the responsibility from society and work as a single mother, so when there is a conflict between mother and daughter, she overreacts.
On the labels given to her by viewers:
I’m not fazed by the fact that people think I’ve sacrificed my career for family. I don’t live in the character, I live life for myself. I don’t mind if people don’t understand me. I even think the less they know, the better. I’m not of the opinion that if someone is talented, they must let the whole world know.
On her high standards when choosing scripts:
I think everyone should have high standards when it comes to choosing scripts – that way the entire industry can improve. There’s no good in churning out “fast-food style” scripts and dramas to get quick returns, whether it be fans or monetary profit. A drama only becomes a classic when you still enjoy watching it at different stages of your life.
On the fact that some viewers want her to be more ambitious and take on directing:
The work of a director is more complicated than what is presented…I’m not obsessed with success, nor do I think I need to complete something for my life to be perfect…when you want someone to be more ambitious, it’s actually because you currently have an unfinished goal that is perhaps just out of your reach.
Tao Hong also talks about child-rearing, education and corporal punishment in the full interview.
And a final Easter Egg:
Interviewer: Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Tao Hong: Happily retired. XD