Vicki Zhao gives voice to Chinese women in series Hear Her
Chinese actress heartened that the Mandarin-language show, which premieres on BBC First and BBC Player today, has empowered women who are struggling
International Women's Day, which lands today, is not just a day to celebrate the achievements of women, but also to recognise and understand the struggles they face in life.
Chinese actress Vicki Zhao did just that with the eight-episode Mandarin-language monologue series Hear Her, which premieres on BBC First (StarHub Ch 502) and BBC Player today.
Inspired by BBC's Snatches: Moments From Women's Lives and produced by Zhao alongside Chinese video-streaming platform and production company Tencent Video, it aims to raise awareness of issues plaguing her countrywomen, with storylines ranging from parenting struggles and mid-life crises to beauty standards and domestic abuse.
Hear Her also stars some of China's most popular actresses, such as Yang Mi, Qi Xi, Hao Lei and Bai Baihe.
Zhao, 44, told The New Paper in a Zoom interview: "(Westerners) have little knowledge about women in China, and we want this show to be true to the facts and not present a false appearance of peace and prosperity.
"Maybe women in Western society have similar struggles, but it is important that we (in Chinese society) can bravely talk about these problems, instead of always saying, 'everything's good'."
Since Hear Her's debut on Tencent Video last November, it has received great attention in China, with the first episode attracting over 25 million views on the platform.
But for Zhao, she values the show's social impact over its commercial profit.
With mostly positive audience ratings, more than 8,000 comments and almost 400 full-length reviews on Chinese review website Douban, she believes it is a "very good thing" that some people have opened up about their struggles.
She said: "When I read the comments on appearance anxiety, I realised that some of their stories are worse than what we have portrayed. But after watching the show, they found the courage to write down their experiences. Sharing things like these can also be empowering for those who are still struggling."
Zhao also acknowledged negative comments that criticised the show for its "empty talk" and "low-impact feminism" that do not provide any realistic solutions, but she stressed that the most important role of the show is to bring awareness.
"These problems do not have a common answer. We would be naive if we tried to provide eight answers in eight episodes," she said.
But Zhao does not intend to stop there and hinted at a possible second season that will likely include the topic of sexual abuse. She said: "We have a large story bank, some 50, 60 stories, all based on true events. And, quite often, you will still see news on women being hurt or abused, which sparks a lot of discussion."
Zhao added: "This is a unique and meaningful show. We are doing it for public interest and we hope to send the message across to those who need a wake-up call."