Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Ridiculous Taiwanese TV Show Shockingly Mishandles Sexual Assault Plotlines

Truth be told, even the promo pics are pretty rapey.
Friends, I mentioned recently that I've been watching the Taiwanese show Absolute Boyfriend. At first it was fun: robot boyfriend who doesn't understand human interactions or emotions or that he should probably wear underwear! Cute next door neighbor who harbors a secret crush for our hapless female protagonist! Various workplace shenanigans! Ku Hye Sun who was so likable in Boys Over Flowers and still is here even though her lines are awkwardly overdubbed because either she doesn't actually speak Mandarin or she has a funny accent or something! That terrible but bizarrely catchy theme song! But then eventually it got rapey. Then it got more rapey. And neither rapey plot point was handled in a responsible manner.* And I do not watch my foreign TV shows to think about politics--I want silliness, romance, ladyfeelings, and a complete disconnection from reality. Absolute Boyfriend, though I will continue to watch it because now I'm in it and WTF? and also I clearly have an Asian drama-watching problem, has filled me with more angst and rage than a light-hearted TV show about a robot boyfriend really should. And now all -0.2 of you who care and the rest of you who don't but feel obligated to read this because you are my sister or something are going to hear about what is wrong with this shit.

Now I know that there a few different versions of this show and that they are all based on some Japanese manga, but I've only seen this one so I can only speak to how it is dropping the ball on the rape plot lines. Without going into too much detail, here is some background info: Xiao Fei orders a robot boyfriend from the internet (obviously). Part of the deal of her being able to keep him even though she can't actually afford it is that he sends back her emotional lady data to the "company" (which apparently is run by a 10 year-old?) for help in developing more robot boyfriends for people to buy. BECAUSE LADYFEELINGS ARE SO MYSTERIOUS, AMIRITE? But anyway, the company needs some sexy data from Xiao Fei so they can understand female sexuality or something, but Xiao Fei is an inexperienced lady who is not ready to do "that" (and yes, that is how they ALWAYS say it) with Nai Te (the robot) or anyone else. But the company keeps pressuring her to do "that" since that is basically what a robot boyfriend is supposed to be for and it is awkward and uncomfortable. ANYWAY, two terrible things happen related to this icky plotline:

1. Nai Te (who is apparently developing real human emotions but still has trouble understanding "appropriate interpersonal behavior" and "consequences of one's actions") gets jealous and desperate and thinks that Xiao Fei doesn't want to be with him, so he basically locks her in an isolated vacation cabin and tries to rape her. But he stops when she starts to cry and then he feels bad, which he should obviously, but then SHE APOLOGIZES for not wanting to have sex with him and begs him not to leave her. And though he later says what he did was "unforgivable" and apologizes a lot, she is both kind of afraid of him but also feels guilty that she "made" him do that to her. PROBLEMATIC.

2. A horrible, horrible other character who lies to Xiao Fei about who he is to get her to trust him (and also ends up being a robot or something? But an evil one?) tricks her into coming to his hotel room, drugs her, and (as far as we know, since they don't show anything but clothes being taken off and the "morning after" in bed scene) rapes her. Xiao Fei apparently is only disturbed that she apparently "fucked" this guy (excuse me--did "that" with him) and not that she can't remember anything about it and now she feels guilty for "cheating" on Nai Te. It is terrible! And this other robot keeps threatening her and blackmailing her and also kidnaps her at least once later on and Xiao Fei just feels guilty about it when really she should have reported the FUCK out of him to the police for drugging her and raping her. We later find out that he was just pretending that they did "that" together to get her to pull away from Nai Te but THIS IS STILL NOT OKAY. She was walking around, feeling horrible, not telling anyone what happened and feeling responsible for it (again). PROBLEMATIC.

So actually Xiao Fei has not actually been raped by any of these robots, but it has come pretty close, and she is full of regret and shame and guilt (like many real sexual assault survivors are!) but no anger at these dudes for trying to/actually taking advantage of her and no acknowledgement that she feels so awful not because she "doesn't love Nai Te enough to do 'that' with him" or because she "cheated on her boyfriend" but because she has been sexually assaulted multiple times now. And even if the second one was fake it is fucked up and UGH.

So what I'm saying is, I have a lot of feelings about the incredibly irresponsible storytelling going on here. Xiao Fei needs to stay away from all the robots and get together with her doting childhood friend from next door who probably would understand that sexual assault is sexual assault and a crime and not her fault and also he is adorable and wears cute vests and cardigans all the time.

*Possibly worse than Veronica Mars season 3, people. That's how badly this was done.


  1. I'm so sorry I told you to watch this one! Ick.

  2. While I see this post is from 2012.. I seriously wish I would have read it BEFORE hitting play on this serious.. I just got to the SECOND Rapey part and Was sitting here just.. angry. and not like "OH I'm so angry that this happened to her." and more of a "OMG how could the writers think this plot line would do well when they make her feel like the bad guy for GETTING RAPED". I just had to google.. and this popped up.. and I feel better that I wasn't alone in the anger!