Why I Hate Netflix’s Meteor Garden


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87 points

I grew up, like many others, obsessed with the classic 2001 Taiwanese drama, Meteor Garden.  If you play the theme song, an F4 chart-topper- 情非得已, I’ll definitely sing along to the chorus, loud and off-key.  I loved it so much that after I watched it (and the sequel), I devoured Hana Yori Dango (the manga that inspired Meteor Garden).

Since 2001, there’s been many reboots: the Japanese “Hana Yori Dango”, the Korean “Boys Over Flowers” and the mainland Chinese  “Meteor Shower”. I’ve watched them all.

In them, the storyline remains the same. The impoverished teenager and heroine, Shancai, attends a university of spoiled rich jerks.  She challenges their status quo and falls in love in the process. A classic.

Shancai + Dao Mingsi = Love

 

So when I learned that there would be a remake of Meteor Garden in 2018, broadcast on Hunan TV and also “airing” an episode at a time on Netflix, I was ecstatic!  Unfortunately, I never got past episode 2 of the remake! It was simply a failed attempt at remaking a classic.

 

 

Why did I hate the new reboot?  In Netflix’s version, the F4 are completely defanged!

In the original (and the reboots), the F4 ruled the university’s social hierarchy because of their wealth and social class.  They were rich jerks, who were not afraid to use their money and power to get what they wanted, when they wanted. When Shancai stood up to them, it was fundamentally a David and Goliath story.

 

In the remake,  the F4 are popular because they “excel in their respective fields.”  They’re intelligent polyglots, earn scholarships, have great taste, and are respectful.

The original F4 couldn’t be more different. They didn’t just represent wealth and power, but were symbols of privilege, entitlement and corruption.  So, we rejoiced when Shancai, our plucky commoner heroine, took them down.

The new F4, in contrast, have “earned” their popularity in a meritocracy.

The original F4 were straight-up, unrepentant bullies who ruthlessly drove students out of school on a whim.   After they sent Shancai a red “F4” card, it was open season for the student population to torture her. They framed her for cheating, glued her to a telephone, locked her in a bathroom stall, and assaulted her. This all made her decision to fight back more meaningful.

We collectively cheered when she finally stood up for herself. Liked David, she would do the unthinkable- defeat her Goliath.

Shancai’s Heroic Dropkick

In contrast, the remake presents a kinder, gentler F4.  When they send Shancai an F4 Joker card, it’s a challenge to … play bridge?  Not the same dramatic impact.

And what does that mean for Shancai? When it comes to the F4, the remake pulls its punches in every single interaction, but Shancai’s reactions are exactly the same as in the original.  In the Netflix’s version, our heroine’s once well-deserved riposte becomes a disproportionate overreaction.

I know the remake is popular, and have seen lots of cute gifs online from later episodes.  But it will never be my Meteor Garden, not with the way they have upended the underlying thesis of the show.  

You can watch Shen Yue and Dylan Wang be cute on Netflix all you want. I’ll curl up over here, rewatching Jerry Yan and Barbie Hsu fall in love.

 


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A. Lee

Chinosity Squad VIP ELITE Member

A lawyer by day and dramaphile by night, A. Lee is an ABC who spent her formative years watching wuxia and Huan Zhu Ge Ge. She now wishes that she, too, knew qing-gong and could fly.

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