Tue, Jun 25, 2019 - Page 13 News List

Taiwanese dramas go global

‘The World Between Us’ has demonstrated worldwide appeal, marking the beginning of the local drama industry’s entry into the international entertainment market

By Candice Chiang  /  Contributing reporter

A scene from The World Between Us, featuring Chris Wu, left, James Wen, center, and Alyssa Chia.

photo courtesy of Public Television Service

Notorious MRT slasher Cheng Chieh (鄭捷) shocked the nation with his callousness when he told police, “I have been aspiring to do something huge since I was little (我從小就立志-做一件大事).”

The killer in the drama The World Between Us (我們與惡的距離) repeats the exact same phrase.

Taking inspiration from Cheng’s 2014 stabbing rampage that left four dead and 24 injured, the social realist drama, concluding in April, deviates from the over-idealized storylines with annoyingly flawless characters that plague Taiwanese shows. It delves straight into reality.

Providing a breath of fresh air from the heavily romance-oriented usual productions, The World Between Us depicts the aftermath of a mass shooting from the perspectives of the various parties involved, including the killer and his family, the victims and their families, the defense teams, the media, as well as the public’s reception.

The rom-coms are mostly geared toward a local female audience between the ages of 15 and 25, according to a 2010 survey conducted by Chinese Communication Society (中華傳播學會).

However, in recent years, the Taiwanese drama industry has begun to explore other themes and genres, most notably social realism, releasing series such as The World Between Us and On Children (你的孩子不是你的孩子), both of which have received critical acclaim at an international level.

What makes The World Between Us so powerful is not just the engaging plot, complex character development, and the actors’ great performances; it is that the drama has opened up conversations about the gray areas of morality, prompting the audience to rethink the line separating good and evil: Is a criminal defense lawyer so unforgivable? Is it morally justified to hate on a criminal’s family members? Does media weaponize opinion?

With a rating of 9.3 out of 10 on IMDb as of press time, The World Between Us has demonstrated wide global appeal, particularly among millennials. It epitomizes the rising trend of quality Taiwanese dramas that distinguish themselves from romcoms targeting local audiences, paving the way for Taiwan’s entry into the international market.

Similarly, On Children is a PTS production with a social realist theme. It centers around the potential negative effects of credentialism and extreme parental control on children’s psychological state.

Inspired by British science fiction television series Black Mirror, the drama takes an anthology approach and has a futuristic and sci-fi quality to it. The series is jointly distributed by PTS+, Netflix, and Line TV.

Both The World Between Us and On Children examine contemporary social issues that exist globally and aim to inspire thoughtful reflection. They may be outliers for Taiwanese dramas, but the incorporation of social issues is common in Western television series.

In an interview with Punchline (娛樂重擊), the writer of The World Between Us, Lu Shih-yuan (呂蒔媛), said that while addressing social issues through television series is not a groundbreaking idea in Western societies, the key issue in the lack of social realist productions in Taiwan lies in the fact that most Taiwanese broadcasting platforms are not prepared to show dramas with a serious subject.

In the case of The World Between Us, PTS willingly stepped up and offered to produce the series, kicking off the rising global visibility of the Taiwanese drama industry.

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