In the pursuit of innovation in the Chinese drama market, traditional costume dramas are undergoing a revolution. With the rise of popular elements such as fantasy and idol, true costume dramas are becoming increasingly difficult to find. However, "Fighting for Love" brings a breath of fresh air to the audience with its simple style and authenticity. The drama abandons the glamorous special effects, vibrant costumes, and excessive filters, presenting the essence of costume dramas.
Directed by Tian Shaobo, "Fighting for Love" stars Zhang Tianai, Zhang Haowei, Wang Ruichang, and others, and premiered on January 31, 2024. A Mai, the daughter of the Duke Jing of Nanxia, is killed by Chen Qi, her childhood friend. After several years, A Mai, who has grown into a young woman, disguises herself as a man and roams the martial world in order to seek revenge on Chen Qi.
By a twist of fate, A Mai saves the son of the Crown Princess, Shang Yizhi, and subsequently helps him escape from danger multiple times. Their destinies become intertwined. As war breaks out, A Mai sheds her feminine appearance and joins the army as an infantry soldier. With her exceptional military talents, she achieves remarkable feats and becomes known as General Mai. At the same time, she assists Shang Yizhi, who is being hunted, in finding his own identity and achieving greatness.
On the battlefield, A Mai repeatedly clashes with the enemy general, Chang Yuqing. Outside the battlefield, the two inadvertently experience life and death together, developing a deep understanding and appreciation for each other. However, faced with the cruelty of war, A Mai resolutely puts aside her personal feelings and uses her youthful passion and blood to defend her army. In the end, after the war is won, A Mai leaves the army, resumes her identity as a woman, retreats from the world, and ultimately finds her own happiness.
The innovation of "Fighting for Love" lies in its return to simplicity, cleverly combining the "Hua Mulan" style female growth story with diverse dramatic elements, successfully striking a balance between youthful passion and patriotic sentiments. This not only redefines the power of female characters but also deeply explores the connection between individuals and the fate of the nation, allowing it to stand out in the challenging costume drama market.
Hua Mulan style female growth model
A Mai carries the shadow of the traditional Chinese folk story "Hua Mulan", but the drama does not continue Mulan's story. Instead, it portrays a determined and clever female character. "Hua Mulan" is not a synonym for all female generals. Behind the "Hua Mulan" style character lies an ode to female power and a praise of female wisdom, demonstrating the courage to break free from social gender stereotypes.
Firstly, A Mai is intelligent and resourceful. In her impoverished life, she sells skincare products to find the whereabouts of the "Wan Shi Tong", with the goal of locating her enemy, Chen Qi. After meeting the Crown Prince Shang Yizhi, she knows how to use his protection to achieve her own goals.
Secondly, A Mai is not someone who resorts to any means necessary or deceives others without principles. She clearly tells her comrades not to deceive the poor and even uses the money she earned before to buy food for the people in the slums, showing her concern for the common people and laying the groundwork for defending the country later.
After personally experiencing the brutality of war, her bravery and decisiveness allow her to break free from perilous situations. In the face of life and death, she not only protects innocent children in the midst of a crowd, but also cares for Xu Xiu'er, the orphaned daughter of the gang leader Xu Yong. It is evident that A Mai possesses the courage of a warrior while maintaining her warmth and kindness.
It is worth mentioning that Zhang Tianai, who plays A Mai, was initially hailed as the chosen female general when the drama was announced. With her dark skin and dirty clothing, even A Mai's behavior and demeanor exude a masculine aura. In previous TV dramas, when the female lead disguised herself as a man, she would still wear jewelry and false eyelashes. However, "Fighting for Love" does not adorn Zhang Tianai's male appearance, and her natural and agile acting skills make the character of A Mai truly captivating.
In order to better portray the image of the fierce and elegant female general A Mai, Zhang Tianai strictly manages her figure. She turns the filming set into a gym by incorporating squats and 100-meter sprints into her training routine. It is worth mentioning that her dedication to the role pays off, as Zhang Tianai receives recognition for her portrayal of A Mai.
Not all instances of "disguises as a man" can be compared to the legendary figure of Mulan. Only women who are genuine, simple, brave, and intelligent can embody the captivating essence of such characters. Just like A Mai, she possesses a maturity that transcends her age and a competence that transcends gender. Such female characters are what truly need to be showcased in historical dramas.
The fast-paced and intricately woven narrative structure
Single-element dramas no longer satisfy the increasingly diverse tastes of the audience. A Mai's Military Journey incorporates a rich array of narrative elements such as romance, political intrigue, comedy, war, and revenge.
One interesting aspect of the drama is the setting of one woman and three men. One is the innocent and noble Shang Yizhi, one is the constant adversary of A Mai, Chang Yuqing, and the other is the loyal and righteous Tang Shaoyi. Due to not recognizing A Mai's true identity, the lives of these three characters in the military camp are filled with humorous incidents.
The character of Shang Yizhi is also quite amusing, as he is nicknamed the "first silly and sweet male lead in cdrama". Not only does he mistake a radish for ginseng when he first meets A Mai, but he also completely forgets the purpose of his disguise when he risks his identity to save her from pursuit.
The interweaving of multiple storylines keeps the audience captivated, and the fast-paced narrative tempo leaves them reluctant to even consider increasing the playback speed. On one hand, A Mai, disguised as a man, embarks on a journey to uncover the whereabouts of her enemy, Chen Qi. Along the way, she faces numerous dangers, including almost being strangled by Chang Yuqing in the Silver Castle City and being mistaken as a spy from the Bei Mo and imprisoned. The only clue, A Si, meets an untimely demise at the hands of Bei Mo soldiers.
On the other hand, the mystery surrounding Marquis Shang Yizhi's background is shrouded in uncertainty. He is not the biological son of the Grand Princess and Duke Ding Nan, but rather an orphan of the former Crown Prince. Emperor Qi Jing has long suspected Shang Yizhi's identity and has repeatedly sent assassins to eliminate him. While Shang Yi Zhi manages to stay alive, the truth behind his parents' murder gradually comes to light. The first episode sets the stage for significant revelations.
As the impending war between the Bei Mo and Xi Xia approaches, elements of espionage and political intrigue are integrated into the plot, further enriching the narrative tension. Amidst the thrilling and tumultuous storyline, romantic scenes, which the audience typically enjoys, become more delicate and subtle.
The compact narrative pace and suspenseful plot twists have garnered increasing praise from the audience after the first eight episodes of the drama. A good story necessitates a battle of wits, and in "Fighting for Love," almost every character, be it an antagonist or a member of the main cast, displays high intelligence. The outcome of their conflicts awaits the audience's anticipation.
The integration of timeless patriotic values
Many historical and fantasy dramas advocate for patriotism and the spirit of chivalry, but hollow expressions are insufficient to convey the true essence of patriotic ideals to the audience. "Fighting for Love" takes a different approach, grounded in reality, and presents the interpretation of ordinary people's understanding of national ideals through a female perspective and the portrayal of common characters.
The notion of national ideals encompasses two dimensions: family and country. A country is composed of countless families, but without a country, there can be no family. A Mai and Shang Yi Zhi are two individuals without a family, and their initial motivations revolve around seeking a sense of belonging. A Mai's pursuit of revenge and the unraveling of Shang Yizhi's mysterious background are both attempts to find their place in a family. However, after the outbreak of war, they temporarily set aside personal matters and dedicate themselves to protecting Southern Xia and resisting external threats, thereby exemplifying the understanding of national ideals by ordinary individuals.
Furthermore, the drama also portrays numerous ordinary characters, such as the ingenious bow and arrow designer Li Er Niu from the Bei Mo and the righteous gang leader Xu Yong. There is also the loyal and courageous Tang Shao Yi. Li Er Niu willingly relinquishes wealth and status, refusing to have his designs used for war and killing. Tang Shaoyi, after understanding Li Er Niu's noble intentions, vows to protect him and rescues him from captivity.
Meanwhile, Xu Yong sacrifices his life to save A Mai, and in gratitude for saving her life, A Mai fulfills her promise to take care of Xu Xiu Er. All of these actions stem from the principle of "righteousness," which transcends life and death, race, and class, representing noble morals and a sense of responsibility.
While portraying patriotic ideals, "Fighting for Love" does not directly express the sentiment of "For the sake of the country, one is willing to sacrifice life and fortune; regardless of good or bad fortune, one will not evade." Instead, it constructs a profound understanding of patriotic ideals through the small righteousness demonstrated between ordinary people and in trivial matters.
The innovative highlights of "Fighting for Love" lie in its portrayal of the growth of female characters, its fast-paced narrative, and its precise interpretation of patriotic sentiments, which bring a fresh perspective and contemplation to the creation of historical dramas. The drama not only provides the audience with a rich emotional experience but also sets a new benchmark for the innovation and development of historical dramas.