TV re-adaptation of the classic novel All Men Are Brothers
TV adaptations of the "Four Great Classical Novels" are like tap water in China - no matter how low the creative reservoir appears to sink, the supply never seems to run dry. Following satellite re-adaptations of Romance of the Three Kingdoms
and A Dream of the Red Mansion
last year, it's time for - you guess it - another new version of All Men Are Brothers
Adapted from the classic novel, the new show, All men are Brothers is an 86-episode series broadcasting on major satellite TV channels every day, and is already midway through its showing.
Aiming to give "updated values" to the traditional story, the new show has instead caused derision among viewers and critics.
"I knew Li Shaohong (director of A Dream of the Red Mansion), and Gao Xixi (director of Romance of Three Kingdoms) would stick to the originals, but I've decided to give a brand new adaptation, " Hong Kong director Gaau Leung Guk claimed to media.
"I never wanted to make TV to be authentic but instead to make an acceptable show for modern viewers in terms of character-building, costume, make-up and storyline," Guk added.
There are several controversial changes for All Men Are Brothers. Pan Jinlian, portrayed as a loose woman in the original novel and a long-established symbol of such in China, is now recast as a hard-working virginal housewife in the first episodes, refusing several wealthy young suitors.
In the novel, Pan murdered her husband with her lover, Ximen Qing. In the new adaption, her affair with Ximen is a romantic love story.
"I chose not to show Pan's loose side in the beginning… so it's more dramatic when the truth comes out," Guk insisted.
The character of Wu Song is iconic in Chinese and East Asian culture for his courage and just nature. His fight with a wild tiger with his bare hands is a household tale - but in the new adaption, Wu uses a knife, the fake-looking tiger is a work of spectacularly unsuccessful CGI and Wu's costume has been called "ridiculous" for resembling the Jack Sparrow's in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.
"It is not possible to kill a tiger with your bare hands, even the bravest man in the world couldn't, so we had to give Wu Song a knife," Guk argued.
All men might be brothers but just how close are these bros? The new version emphasizes their looks and emotions too much, some say.
The character Lin Chong is a man so handsome, he habitually attracts male compliments. In fact, a generally homosexual atmosphere pervades the whole bandit series. Lin is habitually described with female imagery and the men wear flowers and sport various tattoos.
"I need to deal with each unique personality," Guk responded. "For instance, Tong Guan is a eunuch, so he is a little gay. Using a female metaphor for Lin Chong is a joke, not gay flirting! We also did research... men did wear flowers in the Song Dynasty."
The original novel is gory, earthy and full of amoral sex and violence - there's even cannibalism. All that's been excised. "They [sex and violence], of course, cannot be shown on TV if they want to pass censorship," film critic Hu Liang said.
(China.org.cn, www.i21st.cn, August 26, 2011)