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First Episode 66: 蜗居 Dwelling Narrowness


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A part of the Grand First Episode Project -- See this thread for more info.

This show was recommended to me by a friend who said that it's very popular right now and somewhat controversial. The English translation of the title is pretty horrible, but the show looks well produced and has some pretty solid acting.

Summary: The first episode opens with 郭海萍 and her finance 苏淳 moving into a tiny apartment in Shanghai (which they call 江洲 in the show). The phone rings and there is a tense moment while 海萍 and 苏淳 try to guess whose parents are calling so they won't get caught for living together. 海萍 answers and, lucky guess, it's her mom. Mom wants to know when 海萍 and 苏淳 are getting married and 海萍 wants her sister, 海藻 to come to Shanghai for college. There is some drama around this, mom and dad are both worried about 海藻 in the big city because they think she is less outgoing than 海萍. Cut to six months later and 海藻 has passed the gaokao and is accepted to a college in Shanghai. 海萍 and 苏淳 are still living in the same very small apartment. When 海藻 finds out they are living together she jokes she's going to tell their mom. 苏淳 says that they're only living together so they can save money to buy a larger apartment with room for 海藻. 海藻 finds a box of condoms and asks, 'So, these are for chastity's sake, right?'(守身如玉) Cut to four years later and 海藻 has graduated from college. Meanwhile 海萍 and 苏淳 are married, but still living in the itsy bitsy apt. 海藻 tells 海萍 she is thinking about moving back home because she's worried she won't be able to find a job in Shanghai. 海萍 encourages her to stay because she will have more opportunities in the big city. Finally, 海萍 tells her she can live with them until she finds a job. Several months pass and 海藻 still hasn't found a job which creates tension with 苏淳 and their landlord who lives downstairs with her family. Finally 海藻 finds a job and moves out. A little bit later she meets 小贝 (played by 向南 from 奋斗). As the first episode ends, 海萍 and 苏淳 are looking at an apartment in the suburbs. 海萍 asks 苏淳 'Which is more important, a house of their own or job that is easy to get to?' . 海萍 answers that a house is more important. The camera then pans down to reveal that she is pregnant.

I'll try to post a vocab list soon!


Steingletscher has done a transcript for the first post, and may do more:



Edited by roddy
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There are rumors that this show has been banned because it's too "yellow." Some say that it's because it's too direct in portraying the tough lives that ordinary people lead. The regulatory agency denies that the show is banned. But it's no longer showing on the Beijing TV station.


《蜗居》的 “罪”与“ 责”

2009年11月30日 10:34:45 华龙网


一、《蜗居》是荧屏上的“狼毒花”, 有网民总结《蜗居》是“很黄很暴力”。但这只是表面现象,而正直《蜗居》“毒”是他对社会问题最深刻的揭露,对人性思想的毒害,《蜗居》房奴、小三、贪污、钉子户等现实社会大量存在的社会问题搬上荧幕,反映了现实初会但又“反了现实社会”,是一朵的荧屏 “狼毒花”。不可否认,《蜗居》剧情表现的社会状况问题确实很严重,但并不是当前现实社会的主流,更不能“以点带面,窥一斑而见全豹子”。《蜗居》将社会小污点无限放大,过分的把“房奴”、“二奶”、官员腐败等社会阴暗问题进行精雕细琢的描写和拍摄,把社会阴暗面无限“扩大化”,产生了极坏的社会影响。同时《蜗居》剧中有一些带“色”的字眼和场境“堂而皇之”地在公众电视台上播放,众多床上镜头的截图也在网上大肆流窜,造成极大的负面影响,恶意降低大众的审美趣味。


《蜗居》停播 只因色的太真实?

2009-11-26 08:22:56 东北新闻网



http://www.rednet.cn 2009-11-26 9:16:16

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Translated the gist of the 6 complaints of article that gato linked to:

1) Because it shows "mortgage slaves", adultery, corruption, "nail dwellers" (people who refuse to move when their homes are slated to be demolished in order to get better compensation) it gives the impression these problems are more common in society than they actually are and therefore is an extremely bad influence on society. Also, the shots of people in bed are crass.

2) The characters on the show are morally degenerate and twisted. Everyone is full of material and carnal desire and they think they think money is more important than morality. It shows young people who sell out their values for an apartment.

3) The show is making a statement about abnormally high housing prices. It is not just a story, it is the real life experience of countless "mortgage slaves" who lose all of their ideals, convictions and dignity for a couple dozen square meter apartment, "mortgage slaves" who sacrifice their lives, their love, and their most fundamental values.

4) It does not only show the real situation of "mortgage slaves", moreover it rubs salt in the wound. This is the reason the show is so popular is that it realistically describes society's "mortgage slaves" , peoples concern for the show reveals their concern for society, as a call for social justice and fairness, it moves the issue of "mortgage slaves" onto the TV and ruthlessly rouses the public.

5) It damages the thinking of young people. The high price of housing in the show is the 100 percent the same as that in real life, and the cruelly high price of housing in real life makes young people look at the sky and sigh, because abnormally high housing prices completely smash and destroy their dreams, responsibility and convictions, and makes them sacrifice all that they have for a material existence. At even higher level it erodes young peoples motivation, because it makes them feel the need to sacrifice everything.

6) It is eye-catching but without responsibility. TV shows are popular culture, not only should they transmit all the responsibilities of a society, they also must guide public opinion, educate the masses, and purify society. This show on the other hand has a set agenda to pull the audience into a world of inequality, corruption, and extramarital affairs. It bewilders and it misleads, which is irresponsible behavior in today's society of doubt and indignation.The subject matter of TV shows comes from real life, but it must be better than real life, it must reflect reality, but it can't oppose reality, it should provide viewers with a perfect, gratifying and moving world, and not a gritty, grimy one. Other than making viewers happy, it also has responsibility to society. A show that attracts viewers while neglecting it's responsibility is unacceptable.

Anything I missed?

Personally, I like to see grit and grime. Not always of course, but I think society needs all kinds of shows, not just ones that make us feel happy. I think part of the problem is that in China, as far as I know there is no rating system for TV shows. Same with movies so everything has to be dumbed down to the same bland PG13 level. I don't think it is bad for society to be exposed to people doing bad things. It's much worse in my opinion to try to hide things from people. I mean, people are going to have affairs whether or not they see people on TV having affairs. Actually, if they see people on TV ruining their lives because of their affairs maybe they will think twice about having one. And I think 《蜗居》does a good job of showing how real people in China are dealing with some of the problems they face, which is better than watching people without problems. Because I think most people end up getting bored with Chinese TV and watching American movies instead, which are way worse than anything in 《蜗居》.

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I feel that those complaints are somewhat exaggerated, this is one of the most accurate Chinese dramas ive seen recently and i wouldnt worry about the show "demoralising" or being "unresponsible", especially since all Chinese people are well aware of the issues portrayed in the show in their everyday lives (well, maybe not the extramarital stuff).

The characters being "twisted" is done on purpose to show the effects of the various social pressures placed upon them, they made the "twisted-ness" extremely obvious and showed that the behaviours are in fact, unnatural due to their circumstances. I highly doubt that young people would be left astray after witnessing those behaviours, it makes them aware of what not to do instead of telling them that they should do what the characters are doing.

The show overall, in my opinion, highlights the unique challenges facing young Chinese people, I feel more in touch with the show and the Chinese society in general after finishing the series, I don't feel demoralised at all as I think this show is a good step in the right direction in that it shows the realities of living in Shanghai (I was born there), like zhen_shuai said, the grit and grime of portraying the bad things in society is necessary and some people (like myself) want to see more of these shows on Chinese TV.

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this is one of the most accurate Chinese dramas ive seen recently and i wouldnt worry about the show "demoralising" or being "unresponsible",
A lot of aspects of contemporary Chinese society are demoralising and unresponsible - which is exactly why it's the accurate dramas that get banned more easily.
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Also, the shots of people in bed are crass

No, they're not. False advertising!!! (EDIT: oooops, they are, indeed)

Anyway, the first episode was OK. It seemed fairly average, similar to a number of other family dramas. Does it turn into "must watch" stuff later?

Edited by renzhe
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It starts getting sexy around the fifth or sixth episode when things start getting heated up between 宋思明 and 海藻.

I think the first couple of episodes are unique though, in the number of establishing shots they provide of the city, although I probably haven't watched enough Chinese shows to be a good judge of that!

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I'm intrigued by the storyline of the series, but I can't say that I really enjoy watching it. Sure, some of the interactions between the characters has been interesting, but the husband and wife dialogue strikes me as overwrought in many places (or in need of a few more revisions). The limited cast also means that the coincidences pile up as the show progresses: all of the events and situations the series depicts may be drawn from real social phenomena, but they're unlikely to happen to one small group of people all at once.

Also: Don't these people have any friends? There are the principals, and there are the extras, but there aren't any minor characters in between. The grating voice-overs (which pretty much canceled out whatever enjoyment I was able to draw from the show) were only necessary, I believe, because there were no scenes in which the main characters were able to unload their burdens to someone who wasn't part of their insular, screwed-up little community.

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I've watched some more episodes and this is actually quite good. Certainly well-made, and interesting.

Reminds me a bit of 双面胶 (probably due to the main actress).

The two are by the same writer (六六) and director (滕华涛).



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Also: Don't these people have any friends? There are the principals, and there are the extras, but there aren't any minor characters in between.

Yeah, it has it's faults.

Like most Chinese TV shows, I don't think they spent a lot of money on it. According to the interwebs there were four (or more) different production companies involved:


To me, that indicates that they were on a pretty tight budget. Maybe I'm wrong though? Shanghai Media Group looks like they are pretty big, are they the main broadcaster in Shanghai? What about the others? If it was done on a budget, that would explain why there are so few actors.

I was told the actors are mostly unknowns, too. The actor who plays 小贝 was in 《奋斗》, that's the only one I know.

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The two are by the same writer (六六) and director (滕华涛).

Thanks, gato.

Lol, I'm becoming an expert on Chinese series :P

I was told the actors are mostly unknowns, too. The actor who plays 小贝 was in 《奋斗》, that's the only one I know.

Both he and 海清 (the actress playing 海萍) are quite famous, at least for TV-series audiences.

Regarding the series itself, despite the dark subject matter, I find it less depressing to watch than either 双面胶 or 我们俩的婚姻. But maybe this is because I was skimming through it so I didn't get too involved.

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Okay, just finished watching the whole thing.


-The American who speaks terrible Chinese and likes to drink wine and eat "Western Style" breakfast (loaf of bread???)

-The way they get rid of the old lady

-Angry Chinese mother + disobedient daughter + plastic coat hanger = hilarious

-The break-in scene


-Pretty much goes downhill after episode 18 (and there are 35 total!). The last half of the show seemed to go super slow and then all of a sudden everything got wrapped up in a couple of episodes.

This seems to be a common problem with the Chinese dramas I've watched. Do writers just run out of stuff or what? Seems like 20 episodes or so is the limit. After that...meh.

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