Dwelling Narrowness (Wo ju, translated literally as “snail dwelling”) became Chinese netizens' “favorite TV drama” in 2009. In this paper, I focus on a complex of issues in contemporary Chinese society about which Dwelling Narrowness provoked extensive discussion: love, sex, and relationships. Specifically, I consider two facets of the series. One is its appropriation of controversial issues in popular discourse. The second is the public response to Dwelling Narrowness, ranging from netizens' and public authorities' reactions to the controversial issues it depicted to Chinese scholars' critiques of the drama's portrayal of sex, love, and relationships. Through a critical examination of these two facets, I argue that the drama brought a certain complexity to the representations and discussions of emotions and economic struggles of urban citizens in contemporary Chinese society. However, in order to give voice to mainstream culture's worries about interpersonal economic relationships and to protect dominant values regarding love and sex, Dwelling Narrowness ultimately punished those of its protagonists who challenged conventional views on the family. Therefore, despite all the controversy it raised, the drama sacrificed the opportunity to further explore complex emotions and trivialized issues of gender inequality. As a result, the public discourse it created heavily emphasized patriarchal views on sexual ownership while ignoring feminist voices.
Huike Wen; Slaves of the House and Victims of Love: New Life and Relationship Challenges in Dwelling Narrowness. Camera Obscura 1 September 2014; 29 (2 (86)): 35–57. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/02705346-2704625
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