It's a Wonderful Life (好运到)
This show is Singaporean Chinese Chinese New Year 2013 drama. It was telecasted on Mediacorp Channel 8 and made its debut on 21 January 2013. This drama serial consists of 20 episodes, and was screened on every weekday night at 9:00 pm.
The plot revolves around Li and Hao families and several couples and deals with family and getting along with in-laws.
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No Tips to Handle Real-Life Issues
I am not a fan of drama shows, and I watch them on and off whenever my son watches them. This series 'It's a Wonderful Life' had just ended, so I thought I'll write my thoughts about this show.
This is one of the drama series that touch on the topic of kindness, goodness of the human nature, and a big part of it goes to getting along with your in-laws.
The kindness aspect is mainly demonstrated by Julie Tan's character (Hao Ping An), who grew up in Canada and came to Singapore to look for her uncle. Her character is very likeable, as it demonstrates her kindness time and time again even towards strangers. Dennis Chew's character (Bai Bao Xiang) provides cheerfulness and comedy in the show. I enjoy watching these two characters very much and feel they are the saving grace for the show.
Now, for the moment of truth: This show brings up realistic aspects in Singapore life, but fails to address these issues adequately. People are looking for answers, but to my great disappointment, this show has failed to provide them. There are 3 issues I found which are not addressed by the show. The first is the concept of the elderly working for their living. The second is the relationship between mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law. The third is about husbands caught between their wives and their mothers.
(1) The elderly working for their living
One incident shows Elvin Ng's character (Gu Zhi Ji) meeting Hao Ping An for the very first time and having a meal at a coffee shop. There was an elderly lady working, and Hao Ping An commented that the elderly lady was very pitiful because she had to work in her old age instead of enjoying life. Gu Zhi Ji in his cold-hearted way commented that the elderly lady was lucky because she could find a job to feed herself. Gu Zhi Ji's perspective is not wrong, however, the show fails to bring that out. In today's thinking, elderly parents should be accepting allowances from their working children and enjoying life and not working, and elderly people with no money and no children are working because they have to work. But with the Government promoting the concept of active aging and Singaporeans' gripes about foreign workers, shouldn't the positive aspects of the elderly working, whether they want to or not, be highlighted?
(2) Relationship between mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law
One major portion of the show highlights the tension in the relationship between Paige Chua's character (Isabella) and Chen Li Ping's character (Isabella's mother-in-law Fan Wen Xiang). The show gave a very realistic portrayal of the incidents that cause these tensions. I was very curious how the show intended to resolve those issues, and it was such a huge letdown to see the cause of the problems was due to Isabella's depression! What a weak solution! The real cause was very simple--Chen Li Ping's character showed no respect for her daughter-in-law, and took away her daughter-in-law's authority as the co-head of the household and the mother of her grandchild.
Incidents where Chen Li Ping's character showed her daughter-in-law disrespect:
a) Continual references of "This is my son's flat. Why can't I do this or do that?", totally ignoring the fact that her daughter-in-law was the co-owner of the flat and also had rights.
b) Overriding her daughter-in-law's instruction to wash the family's clothes separately. There are practical reasons for washing clothes separately which some elderly people do not understand. First is to prevent colour-runs, and second, different quality clothes and lifestyles require different types of washes. Instead, the show has chosen to portray Paige Chua's character as a germaphobe (an obssessive compulsion to be clean),
c) Playing mahjong on Chinese New Year, ignoring her daughter-in-law's wish for a peaceful night's sleep
d) Interfering with her daughter-in-law's method of bringing up her grandchild. On the surface, this seems harmless. But what most people do not realise is by giving the grandchild the idea that his parents' instructions are not worth obeying, in time to come, the child will stop obeying his parents and start rebelling.
Why I think it is important for the show to address this very big issue is because in real life, many elderly parents think it is not wrong to show their daughters-in-law the same disrespect. Instead of portraying it is OK and normal for a parent-in-law to act this way, I feel the show could end with the lesson of mutual respect for one another. The concept of the patriarchal society (4 generations under one roof 四代同堂) in ancient China does not work fully in modern Singapore. The elderly should recognise and respect the fact that they have passed the baton of responsibility to their children, and their children are now heads of the household, and have authority over the running of the household and their grandchildren's upbringing. Their role, with their years of wisdom, should be to encourage harmony between their children and their spouses and between children and grandchildren, and not be the cause of disharmony. The children, in turn, will respect and take care of their elderly parents.
3) Husbands caught between their wives and mothers
The show portrays Zen Chong's character (Li Siyuan) as the husband of Isabella and son of Fan Wen Xiang. He loves his wife, his son and his parents very much, which is great, but unfortunately, he does not have the strength of character to resist the manipulations of his mother, and usually ends up asking the wife to give in.
I felt that the show could have used his character to provide tips to husbands caught in the same situation. He could have detached himself from the situation and acted objectively. He could have used humour to defuse the situation or to pacify his wife. He could have deliberately done something to make both his wife and his mother angry with him so they will not have time to go against each other. Sadly, the show did not provide any gems of wisdom to these poor husbands.
In short, this show has brought certain issues and portrayed them well, but unfortunately, failed to give the audience tips on how to really address them. If not for Julie Tan and Dennis Chew's characters, I would have given this show a 1-star rating instead of 2.