General & I is a female fantasy–that we (women) will be respected in a male-dominated profession; that we will be loved for our successes rather than shamed; that we can have our own hierarchical relationships that may even conflict with a man–and that’s ok.
That’s the fantasy.
The passion of romantic love may give General & I it’s narrative drive, but it’s beating heart is in female friendships.
This line came from the best defined of those friendships, between Bai Ting Ting and Yang Feng, who are besties.
Bai Ping Ting and Yang Feng are allowed to rank their friendship high enough that it can conflict in their romantic relationships–when their husbands go to war against each other, Yang Feng tries to keep Bai Ping Ting from choosing sides for example.
And the women who don’t have friends–Zheng Guifei and Yao Tien–are the women who End Badly.
My current Asian drama addiction is (shockingly) not Korean, but Chinese: General and I, a fun sudsy melodrama that takes place during an invented part of the Yan era, just after the Three Kingdoms.
At least, that’s as far as I can tell. Embarrassingly, most of my knowledge of Chinese history is indexed to understanding Korean history, so I could be wildly wrong.
But it’s old enough that they wear Hanfu, the best clothing style in the history of clothing other than 1930s bias cut evening gowns; and I liked Angelababy in the young Judge Dee movie; and Wallace Chung is both hot and old enough that I don’t feel creepy thinking he’s hot.1
So… yeah. It’s fun. But I didn’t expect any depth. I don’t expect depth from any historical drama that’s not Korean.2.
I just wanted pretty people in pretty clothes, angsting.
With bonus points for fancy hats.
But then the Princess of Bai Lan said this:
I am not ready; but I am willing.
And jerky He Xia listened to her, because apparently she’s the only person in the world that emits a ray that can sometimes keep him from being a horrible human.3
And I was stunned. I’d never thought of it that way before.
This is, I think, the missing piece around consent. I don’t think I realized this was two separate things for a very long time–and half of my problems as a young adult came from conflating these two states.
So fancy hats off to you, General and I. Long may you entertain.
Happy Lunar New Year, and welcome to the Year of the Fire Rooster.
1. Cough. Lee Min-ho, cough. But omg that voice! Never mind I have clothing almost as old as you. That I bought. With money from my first job.* 2. It is a truth universally acknowledged** that K-Drama writers are The Best. 3. But not always. He’s still a jerk.***
Footnotes of Footnotes
* I just found out that Wallace Chung and Lee Min-ho are in a movie together. It looks terrible; but to be honest, I’d probably watch them reading menus or recipes to each other for an hour. Two hours, if some of the menus or recipes were in French. Three if they wear hanfu and Lee Min-ho has the brown highlighted shag haircut he had in Faith…. Well, you get the idea. ** By me. *** I wrote this before I saw episodes 34-36. He’s REALLY a jerk. He Xia, you deserve BUPKIS.