A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Meteor Garden is a Chinese young adult drama about a girl, Shancai, who starts attending a prestigious university and immediately runs afoul of a popular clique of boys who begin bullying her. Known as F4, the boys are aloof and cruel, and although Shancai stands up to them, the boys wield all the power. The show sends mixed messages and promotes dangerously antiquated gender roles.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
METEOR GARDEN follows smart, hardworking Shancai, who is excited to begin her studies at prestigious Mingde University in Shanghai. On the first day of class, she learns about F4, a clique of senior boys so popular they're constantly surrounded by girls begging for their attention. When F4's adoring masses push Shancai out of the way, causing her to drop her phone, it's stepped on by F4's leader, the aloof, hot-tempered Si. Unimpressed with their status and not willing to let this incident go unchallenged, Shancai confronts F4 asking for an apology and a new phone. Her defiance impresses F4 so much that they let her into their world, as friendship and a romance with Si develops.
Is it any good?
The current incarnation of this show is based on a Japanese manga that was adapted into a Taiwanese television series in 2009, so it's unclear where its problems originated, but problems it certainly has. Meteor Garden violates the fundamental dramatic principle of "show, don't tell." We're introduced to characters with voice-over narration that lists their personality traits instead of seeing those traits dramatically shown through behaviors or situations. It's all done with such precision (one character explains that the members of F4 are all 165 centimeters tall) that it would be funny if it didn't seem so amateurish. What's more infuriating is how the members of F4, arrogant bullies who answer to no one because the school values their unparalleled card game skills, are given so much power over Shancai. Dressed and photographed like fashion models, F4 and especially Si treat Shancai terribly. But because her willingness to stand up to them is deemed impressive, they welcome her into their midst -- and she goes.
What's the message here? The audience is also expected to forgive Si's bullying behavior when it's revealed that his father died when he was young and his workaholic mother neglected him. It's disturbing to see Shancai fall for this manipulative, volatile, but handsome, creep. Overall, Meteor Garden offers up some very regressive gender representations and dangerous messages about male/female power dynamics.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the way bullies are depicted in Meteor Garden and in media. Does what we learn about the childhood of some of the F4 boys make their cruel actions excusable?
What are some of the cultural differences between this Chinese show about teens and American shows about teens?
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