In Maggie Gyllenhaal’s film The Lost Daughter, Olivia Coleman plays Leda Caruso, a promising translator who deserts her young daughters for several years to pursue her career. The film challenges the idea of motherhood: that a mother should relish her maternal role and when a woman doesn’t embrace it, something must be wrong with her.
Chinese actress Yao Chen, too, has chosen to challenge the same stereotype. In her new television drama Rock It, Mom, which is exclusive to streaming platform iQiyi, she plays Peng Lai, a rock-and-roll singer. When she finds out that her husband has been cheating with her best friend, the rock star leaves behind her six year-old daughter Bai Tian behind to go to the US to pursue her singing career.
But Peng’s career fails to take off. Instead, she makes ends meet by performing in Chinatown restaurants and at nursing homes. She also has no contact with her daughter.
But that all changes when her ex-husband dies from a heart attack and Peng becomes Bai’s only living relative (Bai is played by Zhuang Dafei; see photo).
The show follows the mother and daughter as the two try to mend their testy and fragile relationship. It is not a conventional family drama. Well, Peng is not a conventional mother. Critics say the show tests the limits of Chinese stereotypes surrounding motherhood.
“Women have long been encouraged to get out of the family and go out in the world. But when they do, they are accused of ‘widowed parenting’ [families in which one parent bears far more responsibility for raising children than the other]. How would the women’s story be told?” one TV critic thundered.
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