I think the sole existence of screenwriter-producer Yu Zheng in the world of C-dramas and movies is really to act like a troll on history and fandom. He exploits anything and everything with equal aplomb, and with this new drama casting bombshell I’ve officially decided that he is also blind and has no ability to pick leading ladies. He ought to get kicked out of the gay brotherhood for being such a repeat offender in casting truly unattractive actresses as his leading ladies. He’s just wrapped filming on Tong Hua‘s Yun Zhong Ge and is about to start plundering his next Louis Cha wuxia novel (the first that he butchered being The Swordsman) setting his grubby paws the romantic Return of the Condor Heroes. This one has been adapted into a drama many times and the most recent one was only 7 years ago in 2006 with Huang Xiaoming and Crystal Liu. Both are easily the most gorgeous Chinese entertainers so their casting passed the looks test since leads Yang Guo (a lady killer) and Xiaolongnu (best beautiful woman in the wuxia world) need to be insanely beautiful people. That adaptation had problems – I thought Huang Xiaoming was miscast because he was too young to play the teenage Yang Guo and he overacted like his pants were on fire, while Crystal was literally a beautiful but dead zombie sleepwalking her way through the drama. But at least they were pretty! Yu Zheng has already cast his resident next generation hottie Chen Xiao as lead Yang Guo, and I wholeheartedly approve. To have such an amazingly charismatic gorgeous guy who can act as Yang Guo makes me happy, but then his Xiaolongnu needs to be extraordinary to match up to him. Rumors for the last few months centered around Angelababy and newbie TW-actress Haden Kuo. Both are plastic beauties but at least pretty, so my jaw literally hit the floor to hear that Michelle Chen was Yumama’s pick for Xiaolongnu. Excuse me? Doughy, dull, and dumpy Michelle Chen as the most beautiful wuxia girl ever? Oh hells no. I will never ever understand why she’s considered a “goddess” after her breakthrough performance in You’re the Apple of My Eye. This offends every fiber of my aesthetic sensibilities.
Yumama wants to pair her (?!?!?) with the unreal vision of male gorgeousness that is Chen Xiao? This is totally the perfect description of the Chinese saying 一朵鮮花插在牛糞上 (a fresh flower stuck on a pile of cow manure). Even famed Hong King directer Wong Jing had to post a snarky Weibo comment when he heard Michelle was cast, asking “那麼胖的小龍女?” (Is there a Xiaolongnu that fat?). Netizens are eviscerating Michelle as well, saying that she’ll snap the rope bed in the Ancient Tomb when she lays down to sleep on it. Or that she’ll look like a duck trying to fly when she is supposed to glide. Or how can she act as a ethereal beauty with her droopy-eyed pancake face.
Leave it to Yumama to defend his choice saying that Michelle is “很瘦很清純” (very skinny and very refreshing) and says that once her official character still is out then everyone will love her as Xiaolongnu. He lies. It’s out and I posted it below, and she looks horrendous. He admits Michelle isn’t as fairy goddess as Crystal (no shit, Sherlock) but says she will make a very good GuGu (auntie), since Xiaolongnu is 6 years older than Yang Guo in the novel. Yumama also revealed he’s got some juicy cameos – two already cast ones being Zhao Li Ying (Chen Xiao’s constant co-star and rumored girlfriend) playing his mom in this drama (she cameos as Mu Niangci, mother to Yang Guo), while Jiro Wang has a cameo as Hu Bi Lie, the first Emperor of the Yuan dynasty. I see hot mess already written all over this. Let’s take a trip down happier times with the former sane adaptations, shall we?
Best and most iconic Xiaolongnu in terms of looks, acting, and chemistry with her leading man playing Yang Guo (that would be Andy Lau) – Idy Chan. This version also had my favorite Yang Guo as well. Andy handled the entire teen-adult-jaded elder transition with aplomb.
83 version with Andy Lau and Idy Chan:
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Decently pretty but dull second generation Xiaolongnu – Carmen Lee. I’m ambivalent about Louis Koo as Yang Guo. Sometimes he was fine, other times total fail.
95 version with Louis Ku and Carmen Lee:
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Random Singapore version Xialongnu with the worst hairstyle ever – Fann Wong. She did end up marrying her Yang Guo co-star Christopher Lee, who is back in this RoCH playing Huang Yaoshi.
The horrible Taiwanese all-black version of Xiaolongnu – pretty Jacklyn Wu all miscast.
The earnest big-budget Zhang Zhi Zhong C-drama version with admittedly the most beautiful and physically perfect Xiaolongnu of all time – Crystal Liu. She’s pretty much exactly the novel description come to life. Except she can’t act, and even Louis Cha was annoyed at her woodenness. Sadly Huang Xiaoming was so OTT and destroyed the character of Yang Guo turning him into a sleazy flirt. Ewwww.
2006 version with Huang Xiaoming and Crystal Liu:
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While there has been only one Xiaolongnu I’ve loved (Idy’s version), at least there has never been a fugly Xiaolongnu. Until now. The evolution has gone from the raving beauties above to…..this? Get ready to
hurt feast your eyes on the first official still of Michelle Chen as Xiaolongnu.
*@%!%^#*@#*! ARGHHHH!! No, just no. First off, ALL WHITE. Xiaolongnu wears ALL WHITE. That cannot be messed with, Yu Zheng! What the fuck is with the random blue bits in her outfit? Second – how can Xiaolongnu have a tummy! C-netizens are wondering why the food in the Ancient Tomb is as rich as at a Palace buffet to produce that dumpy version. Xiaolongnu barely eats, that’s why she’s literally this slender lithe goddess. She sleeps on a rope! She is 不食人间烟火 (not feasting of the human world’s airs), and Michelle is not that description in a million years. And she’s so short and squat to boot. Her expression is also all wrong. ALL FUCKING WRONG. What’s with the smile above? Xiaolongnu does not smile (other than occasionally at her Guo Er), and she also does not look all dewy-eyed-deer-in-headlights like the picture below. She is the uber icy queen. She does not give a fuck about the world outside the tomb or about any one not named Yang Guo. End of story.
If author Louis Cha was still sane, he ought to be writhing in pain. This is how the novel describes the MOST beautiful woman ever to walk the wuxia world – 面容秀美絕俗，清麗秀雅，莫可逼視，神色間卻是冰冷淡漠 (Her face was unearthly beautiful, elegant and refined, impossible to gaze upon, but in her eyes was dispassionate coldness). Using what ungodly barometer of beauty is Yumama associating doughy Michelle Chen with her pancake face with lithe icy goddess that is Xiaolongnu? I know that objectively speaking Michelle is a pretty girl in the real world and is nowhere near ugly or fat by any measure of real world standards. But this is about novel and cinematic standards. I am a novel purist especially when it comes to holy grail wuxia novels of my childhood where I need the actor cast to actually have the looks and charisma to fill the part as described in the novel. The words, it means something!
I also think its just stupid to cast an actress that 99.9% of the fans will hate on sight and then make her feel bad with all the bashing. Poor Ying Er was so young when she was cast as Princess Xiang Xiang (Princess Fragrant) in the drama adaptation of Louis Cha’s first novel The Book and the Sword a few years ago. Netizens tore her apart for being too fat and not beautiful enough, and she apparently developed an eating disorder because of all the criticism. The problem with these castings is that LC’s books are iconic int the modern Chinese literary world, and in all his novels, the three most beautiful female characters he wrote about are Xiaolongnu in Return of the Condor Heroes, Princess Xiang Xiang in The Book and the Sword, and finally Wang Yu Yen in Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils. Casting an actress who is not considered a raving beauty in any of those roles is just asking for fans to unleash holy hell. Plus all Xiaolongnu has are her looks! She’s a moron in all aspects of social skills, barely any book learnings though not a complete imbecile, and has the personality of a cold wet fish to everything and everyone not named Yang Guo.
I see the casting of Michelle a double whammy of bad from a looks as well as ability perspective since I find her a terribly uninteresting actress. Even worse is that Chen Xiao has the potential to be be the perfect Yang Guo and I hate feeling like he’s been wasted in this outing. Ugh, I am not pleased, at this point I’d vote for bringing back Crystal to reprise the role. She’s actually gotten better as an actress since then and being a few years older she has an even better aura for the role. A hilarious snide comment from a C-netizen had me in stitches “This will be the first RoCH where the giant condor will be prettier than Xiaolongnu.” Knowing another RoCH is coming gives me all these ideas even if I know its going to be a hot mess.
1. Why can’t Yumama get Liu Shi Shi and Yuan Hong to cameo as the Yang parents? Hello? They are the perfect ages now that its been 7 years since they filmed Legend of the Condor Heroes playing Mu Nianci and Yang Kang. That would be the guest starring coup of this drama. Zhao Li Ying as Mu Nianci makes no sense.
2. Yumama mentioned the rape scene is going to be very different. How different does he want to make it? Like Zhang Zhi Zhong didn’t make me want to spork my eyes out when he turned it all flower petals and romantic and shit. I don’t even know why he wants to attempt something with respect to that scene.
3. Of all the female characters in RoCH, my favorite is hands down little Guo Xiang. Yes, she doesn’t show up until the final section of the story but many of the drama adaptations have picked young actresses that have totally stolen the drama. Young Yang Mi in RoCH 2006, adorable Wong Man Yi in RoCH 1983, mega-watt smile Theresa Lee in RoCH 1995. Yumama better not let me down here as well.
4. Apparently Yumama’s “revisions” include some of the following blood-spitting nastiness – Yang Guo falls for Guo Fu first when they meet as kids at Peach Blossom Island. Then they are torn apart when he’s sent away to the Sect. So Guo Fu legitimately as a love line with Yang Guo to validate her chopping his arm off later because she’s a heartbroken ex. Instead of a spoiled sociopath that she used to be. THEN Yang Guo falls for Xiaolongnu’s sect sister Li Mu Chou first!! And she loves him back! Da FUCK! After their love fails, then he gradually falls for Xiaolongnu. And her side is even crazier. She is in love with the revised version of Yin Zhi Ping (he has a new name now) the taoist priest. But since their sects hate each other, their love also cannot be. And the rape? It’s an act of passionate LOVE gone awry when he gets crazy jealous of Xiaolongnu and Yang Guo getting all nekkid to learn martial arts. Even writing all this nonsense makes me die a little inside.
5. Yu Zheng has managed to piss, crap, and massacre one lovely memory of a Louis Cha novel drama adaptation after another. Sometimes I wish I never grew up, because there are bad people out in this world and I can’t stop their reign of terror.