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C-Drama Alert: Why Is A Tangible ‘Weapon’ Needed To Show Women Heroes As Powerful?

A tangible 'weapon' seems to bestow these women heroes with her power - why is it that men don't need a weapon to be portrayed as strong, central characters?

A tangible ‘weapon’ seems to bestow these women heroes with her power – why is it that men don’t need a weapon to be portrayed as strong, central characters?

Years 2020-21 was a year of firsts. It was the first time when 80% of the world spent 100% of their time indoors (random stat alert!), when wildlife reclaimed its territories for a brief while, when world over kids and teachers adapted to a dystopian world of virtual studies, when remote working became the norm for millions, and millions others lost their jobs, and when world over people re-discovered the importance of keeping in touch with people.

For me it was a year when I indulged in old hobbies and developed new ones, found lots of time to indulge in binge-watching drama series on Netflix, Amazon, Hotstar and Youtube. And the biggest discovery of 2020-21 was Chinese dramas.

For the uninitiated, C-dramas lie in three main categories – historical, xianxia and wuxia.

Historical dramas are pretty much like our Mahabharatas and Ramayanas, albeit with much better visual effects. Wuxia and xianxia are centred around martial arts, with wuxia being stories of regular humans with superhuman fighting abilities, and xianxia are completely magic-based with an undertone of spiritualism.

In fact, one can draw a parallel between the xianxia world and the world of Harry Potter. They both are stories set in fictional worlds, yet being connected to the real world by a fine thread. They both revolve around magic and magical creatures – spells, ghosts, demons, immortals and the works. They are both extremely addictive for some people, in fact addictive is actually an understatement. And they both have powerful characters irrespective of the gender.

The wand/ sword/ magic umbrella in her hand

Remember Hermione and how the wand in her hand somehow put her at an equal footing with other characters in the book. In fact, the author happily portrayed her power, her abilities and her brains as far superior to the men around her.

Wuxia/xianxia C-dramas have their own equivalents, except the heroes here are wielding swords, and in some cases magical umbrellas, instead of a wand. And yes they are called heroes, at least in the English subtitles! Pretty surprising for a country which is known to be highly patriarchal.

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So we have Chu Xuanji in Love and Redemption who starts off as a silly girl at the beginning of the series, with underdeveloped senses in her current incarnation.

A few episodes down, she recovers her powers as the God of War – the mightiest warrior in the three realms – and changes the way the series ends.

We have Shu Jingrong in Listening Snow Tower who fights alongside the master of Snow Tower as his equal, and sometimes more powerful, partner; even replacing him as the master when he is inconvenienced (which he is for most of the second half of the series!). Zhao Liying is an actress known for portraying strong female heroes in dramas such as Princess Agents, Noble Aspirations and Legend of Fei.

Even female side characters in these popular dramas are strong women, who have moments of tenderness and shyness, but when it comes to a battle or a display of strength, they are equal to other (read male) characters.

What makes these women ‘powerful’?

These women fight alone, strategise, attain the same levels of spirituality as the male monks, lead their own sects, and are at times villains more powerful than the strongest heroes of the story. In most stories, these women are portrayed calmer and more balanced than their male counterparts, hence better at carrying out covert operations.

What is it that makes it possible for these women to be portrayed as an equal, and many a times, the stronger hero in these stories? Be it C-dramas, Harry Potter, or even the Marvel and DC world, how do these women become the heroes of the story, in a world of movie making that is still largely male dominated?

Is it the tangible weapon in the hands of these women that does the magic – A sword, a wand, a shield and a lasso, an umbrella, the list of weapons is endless… Think of dramas or movies with females as the central characters, and chances are most in your list would be these weapon-wielding women. If that is the case, why is it that men don’t need a weapon to be portrayed as strong, central characters? In fact, one would not even think of defining male characters as strong or equal! They are themselves. Period. But women need an ally, a tool to get them into that same bracket.

Maybe it’s time this changed?

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About the Author

Arunima Shekhar

Founder @Tell-A-Tale - I gobble stories and spit out new ones everyday; travel addict, software engineer, storywriter for brands, mentor, Renaissance woman in-the-making. read more...

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