Okay, this story is making mainstream papers and really hitting a nerve so worth delving into. Last week the latest period fantasy C-drama (xianxia genre which means gods and wuxia combined) Ancient Love Poetry was released starring Zhou Dong Yu and Xu Kai. This is her first period C-drama role and she’s playing a mythical goddess in those typical xianxia stories. Those who know Zhou Dong Yu know she’s a multiple Best Actress in film award winning serious movie actress so she’s eschewed television for many years but finally picked this drama. Immediately upon release the C-netizens were on fire in their complaints: Zhou Dong Yu does not have the physical looks to play an unearthly beautiful goddess, she’s too short so she looks like a kid opposite her male lead, her portrayal is too pixie and cutesy and not the cold, lofty goddess image needed for the role, and lastly the dubbing voice sucks donkey balls and takes everyone out of the drama. In fact, C-netizens think she is being outshone by the other actresses around her most notable the supporting actress playing her maid. They want the Goddess and the Maid to swap roles. Sigh.
The dubbing criticism is the only valid criticism, and the others are very subjective. I’ve lobbed my criticism when actors and actresses are cast in the umpteenth remake of my beloved Louis Cha wuxia novels are being totally wrong for the role, because those characters are so deeply engrained from those novels and prior adaptations have found good to great actors and actresses to bring those iconic characters to life. But this xianxia story is inspired from a 2018 novel of a different name and doesn’t have that decades of baggage where readers feel like a live action needs to hew close to the novel description. I think Zhou Dong Yu isn’t getting judged for her acting (she’s got so many Best Actress awards she doesn’t have shelf space) but for things outside of her control, i.e. her small stature, girl next door rather than icy beauty looks, and that she chose to play the role with this hop-skip-jump antics that really doesn’t scream “thousand year old goddess on high.” For comparison, I’ve added in the second half of this post the actresses C-netizens approve of and fawn over playing xianxia goddess roles from Yang Mi to Yang Zi.