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Blockbuster Film ‘Tiny Times’ Reflects China's Generational Conflict

The summer blockbuster movie Tiny Times (Xiao Shidai), a drama about four young women featuring a heavy dose of luxury brands, designer clothing, and splendid venues, is triggering debate in China on the materialism of Chinese youth.

Tiny Times, adapted from a serial novel written by Guo Jingming, shattered opening day box record in China and remained top of the box office charts since its release on June 27, 2013. Its sequel, originally slated for release in December, is now set to open in China on August 9.

The film follows the lives of four college girls who have been best friends since high school. With an overarching theme of the pursuit of success, love, and friendship, the storyline easily reminds the audience of American TV series Sex and the City and Gossip Girl or the film the Devil Wears Prada.

Tiny Times movie poster. via Wikipedia, Fair Use.

Tiny Times movie poster via Wikipedia.

Guo Jingming, who also produced and directed the film, is China's richest author and has come to represent the country's younger ‘Me Generation', the generation born after 1980 who grew up during China's rise in consumerism since the 1990′s, because of his popular young adult fictions. Born in 1983 with modest family background and plain appearance, he began to enter into the public’s eyes with his first novel “The City of Fantasies” in his early 20′s. He then dropped out the university and started his own publishing business. Last year, he climbed onto Forbes’ Rich Chinese List with a record annual income exceeding 27.6 million yuan [45 million US dollars].

He lives a luxurious lifestyle and never avoids public exposure. In a recent interview [zh] Guo said: “You cannot change society by yourself. But you can master the rules of the society, and use the rules to play against others.”

Despite being a huge box office hit, the movie has attracted a storm of criticism. The mainstream media, older generation writers, and directors have accounted for the majority of the attacks, who fiercely blast the film for its shallow and vacuous celebration of material abundance.

Popular film critic Zhou Liming (@周黎明) alleged that the movie goes too far in showing off wealth [zh]:

该片对物欲和美色的炫耀完全是恶趣味的,它不像时尚杂志里的高档商品广告。广告需要刺激人们的购买欲望,它往往借用憧憬。而郭敬明对于富和美的观念,如同一个小时候挨过饿的人,长大后看到一桌子食品时垂涎欲滴,没有淡定或自发的快乐,只有病态的贪婪

I cannot stand the movie anymore. Unlike the commercials in fashion magazines that base the material desire on beautiful imagination, Guo’s depiction of wealth and beauty is unhealthy, akin to those who have been starving for a long time who suddenly come across a table of food, a lack of calm with spontaneous happiness.

Playwright Maguashihang (@鹦鹉史航) echoed Zhou and even criticized the popular idol actors:

「小时代」有一点是对的,导演把关把得好,全片没出现一个演技派,大家水准一般齐…

The Tiny Times only gets one thing right – the director chose the actors all of the same low level cast regardless of any actual acting ability

Both Zhou and Maguashihang's comments received backlash from fans of Guo Jingming as well as fans of the actors and actress in the film. Many wrote that the critics are too old to cope with the younger generation. Director Ning Caishen (@宁财神) criticized the “old-fashioned” critics:

小时代是类型清晰的小鸡电影,好歹能伺候人家自己的观众群。我这次生气的只是周黎明老高刘春杨早史航那些八十多岁的老年人,有愤怒感很正常,但是,没想明白就上战场,胡喷一气,没干掉人家,反倒惹一身骚,所有烦恼都是自找的!

Tiny Times is one of those easy idol dramas that clearly targets its young audience. I am just angry about the older ones like Zhou Liming and Maguashihang, etc. I can understand their anger, but it’s a trap of their own making to join the war without recognizing their situation, losing the battlefield and running into trouble.

The debate in Chinese social media was elevated after Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece People's Daily entered the discussion and lashed out against the movie. While the newspaper’s criticism was not unique, it shifted the attention of the audience from attacking the film to combating the state media’s attempt to control ideology:

@北島學長 虽然还没看这个电影,估计也不会喜欢,但人民日报这样上纲上线未免太小题大做了,各种主义并不是因为这个电影才出现、形成的,把人文建设的责任推给《小时代》,不如思考一下这些社会问题出现的根本原因。

@”Senior student Beidao” Although I have not seen the movie and don’t expect that I will like it, the People’s Daily is making too much of a fuss to exaggerate the value of the film. The materialism and consumerism didn’t stem from the film. Rather than give away the responsibility of humanity's construction to the movie, People’s Daily should find out the primary reasons behind these social phenomenons.

@朱学东 不允许小时代只讲大时代的时代,一定是可怕的园艺时代。在园艺社会,园艺师永远正确,只有它们才配掌握了草木的生命,园艺社会是人类的大敌。

Zhu Xuedong: An age that only allows for “Big Time” instead of “Tiny Time” is a horrible horticultural age. [If refers to the time when individuals were ruled and organized by an authority for agricultural activities. This term is appropriated by some to describe authoritative collectivism.] In a horticultural society, gardeners are always the authority who control the lives of the woods and grass. The society of gardening is human’s the biggest enemy.

  • Serial

    this article doesn’t really seem to fit on this site. Besides, It’s pointless entertainment anyway. It’s got nothing to do with politics.

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