Chinese movie castigating suppressive parenting resonates with young netizens
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Chinese film Einstein and Einstein depicting suppressive ‘tiger parenting’ finally hit the big screen after being shelved for five years, igniting heated debate on what’s called “Chinese-style parenting”, which has long been castigated for restraining natural instincts and demanding obedience.

Einstein and Einstein—with its Chinese title being Dog Thirteen—was directed by Cao Baoping, a former screenwriting teacher at the Beijing Film Academy. Cao is loved by film critics for his few but highly-acclaimed works including The Dead End, and Cock and Bull.

Although the film made in 2013 was rumored to have been earlier banned by film censors, Cao refuted the claim, noting he had purposely suspended its release in order to wait for the best timing. “The Chinese society five years ago was not ready for it, and now I think it’s the time,” he was quoted by Chinese media.

The main character of the film, Li Wan, is a thirteen-year-old floundering in a remarried family. Her obstinate nature puts her into confrontation with her whole family which constitutes grandparents, father, stepmother and a half-brother.

The realistic story of Dog Thirteen documents the transformation of the adolescent girl from someone daring to challenge authorities to becoming “tamed” like a grownup that would always go with the stream.

Many young netizens said they could relate with the character Li Wan and recall similar growing pains in their lives. Li Wan was arranged by her father to enroll into English courses instead of physics which she loved, because the latter would not bring her bonus points needed for enrolling into a prestigious high school.

She lost her dog Einstein. In order to appease her, the family bought a new dog and tried to persuade her into believing it was the old one. At first Li rebelled, still trying to find the real Einstein. But after being slapped in the face by her furious father and forced to apologize to her worrying grandparents, the girl had an ‘epiphany’ and decided to comply with her family’s wishes.

Although Li soon began to love the second dog, she ended up losing the second Einstein as well. Because the dog could not get along with her younger half-brother, it was sent away and died in a temporary shelter.

In the last scene, Li accepts and swallows the dog meat picked up for her by her father’s business partner at a dinner party; it’s implied the girl had finally become a docile and “hypocritical” grownup like her own father. The English word “hypocritical” was mentioned multiple times in the movie.

“The movie would not be ‘out’. Although it was suspended for five years, it remains ubiquitous in our real lives today. It has its value and significance,” Cao Baoping said in an interview.

Since the feudal times till now, China has long advocated the traditional parenting style that highlights obedience and filial piety in the education of younger generation, which has led to many “tiger” or over-controlling parents.

Although the critical film has prompted calls for changing the suppressive parenting style that may distress the country’s younger generation, there are those who don’t think the Chinese society is ready for the change.

Some netizens expressed concern that the controversial movie may unsettle Chinese families and schools. “The situation cannot be fundamentally altered at the current stage. Although the film expresses good wishes, it’s still hard for it to make a difference in the real world, because many parents would not agree,” a post read.

Not long ago, it was reported by local Chinese media that a reputed high school had a grand ceremony for all their students to kowtow to their parents. Along with the absurd rite, the organizer of the activity shouted out loud on behalf of the young students on their knees, “your reprimand is for us to grow wise; your scourging is to help us remove barriers in front, so we take a bow to show our gratitude.”

Some observers believe the makers of Dog Thirteen should be thankful to the reformed censorship system for its screening. Previously, Dying to Survive, a movie depicting the dilemma of cancer patients in China was released by Chinese theaters, raking in 1.33 billion yuan within days. Dying to Survive is hailed by analysts as a breakthrough for the country’s big screen productions, which usually get censored if sensitive issues or real-life problems in society are touched upon.   

 


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