Global Times kindly allowed me to share their newly published article on Ode to Joy 2 on CdramaBase:
Daughters from Elysium
Shanghai-set TV drama popular among foreign females
The second season of 2016 hit TV series Ode to Joy returned to screens last week. The 55-episode new season will continue to explore the professional and personal lives of five young women who live in the same Shanghai housing estate. For its premiere on May 11, the show scored success with over 1 percent viewership ratings in China, followed by international viewership, sparking discussions among overseas viewers who see much of themselves in the five ladies despite being from different cultural backgrounds.
Centering around five women in different phases of adulthood, the show offers a peek into life in China’s most cosmopolitan city.
An Di, 31, is an overseas returnee and high-ranking corporate executive of a big company, but she is lousy at romantic relationships. Fan Shengmei, 30, is a resourceful senior HR executive at a foreign company facing extortion from her financially strained family.
Guan Ju’er, 22, an intern at a Fortune 500 company, strives to catch up with her fellow peers. Qu Xiaoxiao, 24, a sassy girl born with a silver spoon, runs a branch of her father’s company. Qiu Yingying, 23, is a simple girl from a small town who comes to Shanghai hoping for a better life.
Ma-ri, a foreign viewer from Brazil, told the Global Times that even though she has never been to China she sees herself in An Di, who is successful yet always builds up an emotional wall.
“I feel her struggles with people and emotions. I really want her to learn how to live life better, let her guard down and open up, be less anxious. I want this for myself too,” she said.
Aloha, a viewer from the US who is seven episodes into the second season, is also a fan of An Di. “She is brilliant, works hard and doesn’t need a man to complete her. As strong as she is, her vulnerability is to not fall in love,” she said.
In the first episode of the second season, An Di encountered a new pursuer, the manly Bao Yifan who will do anything to make An Di open herself to him. “I love Bao. The way he looks at An Di makes my heart race,” said Aloha. “The chemistry feels real. He is handsome, in a manly way.”
For the new season, fans hope An Di will survive her life’s trials. “I want her character to trust more, realize how special she is and how she makes a difference in the lives of those who are close to her. I want her burdens to be lifted so she can smile and laugh more and see the beauty that surrounds her,” Aloha said.
Sensitive, proud, self-sufficient, unpredictable yet always protecting and caring of her friends, Fan Shengmei’s character caught French viewer Vanessa’s attention more than the other female protagonists.
“Though I grew up in a different culture and context, I feel that her character is portrayed in a realistic way and is easy to relate to. It only took a couple of episodes to understand the hardships she is facing as a woman in her 30s. I am almost in my 30s too,” said Vanessa.
As Fan’s story unfolds, Vanessa is struck by how much pressure the character’s family puts on her. “Parents put high pressure on their daughters who have a responsibility to support their families after graduating. How difficult and depressing it must be to build up her own future while also supporting an entire family,” she said.
Vanessa said she was also interested in the concept of Chinese women considered “leftovers” after reaching the age of 30. “Although I disapprove of this idea, I understand now why some women consider marriage as a solution to their problems and situation,” she said.
“Whatever the hardships may be, I hope Fan will not hesitate to share them with her friends without feeling ashamed. I also hope she will learn how to accept help when she needs it and how to say no when she should,” Vanessa added.
Erin from Indonesia follows the new season by watching it every day on Zhejiang Satellite Television and sometimes on Weibo. An undergraduate, Erin is most interested in the character of Guan Ju’er, the youngest lady in the show.
In the first season, Guan was set up on a blind date by her mother. Erin said she fully understands Guan because she also is in no hurry to find a boyfriend. “Many people ask me why I don’t have a boyfriend. I answer them because I haven’t met the right one. The truth is I don’t want one right now because I choose to focus on my studies.”
The difficulties encountered by fresh graduates to find a job in cities like Shanghai also struck a chord with Erin, who plans to study in Shanghai after finishing her BA, but watching Ode to Joy has made her realize how hard it is to live in Shanghai. “I’m thinking twice about it,” she laughed.
In the new season’s trailer, Guan takes off her glasses and puts on a suit, signalizing a potential change in her personality. Guan’s new romance with a rock star is also full of promise and great expectations. “I want her to change and I hope that she can find true love this season,” said Erin.
Despite the differences in background, personalities and classes of the five beauties, the friendship they forge is one of the most important life lessons viewers will get from the show.
“They let us know that, no matter rich or poor, different life circumstances, different values, you can still be good friends. Respect and love are the key. Women from all over the world understand this,” said Aloha. “So even when women fail, or fall down, we have to pick each other up and face the new day together.”