Comedy Movie

 Post Truth Delightful Realism

Introduction There is no dismissal of this film. The premise of my discussion is that it is already a good commercial film. It is on that basis that some regrets are said. From “Auspicious As You Like It” to “Keep You Safe”, including Dapeng’s other directors’ films, it often gives me the feeling of “finding a good choice of subject matter, but sacrificing a more frilly exploration by its pleasing and sleek audio-visual language”. A good film stands up to criticism, and there is no contradiction between the courageous, realistic concerns of “Keeping You Safe” and the fact that it is itself a film with obvious limitations. The undercurrent of Dapeng’s filmmaking is ‘pleasing realism.

Original Article.Dapeng’s films always give me a feeling of “coquettish realism”. I don’t doubt his courage in reflecting reality and his care for the little people, but his films, from the angle of choosing the topic, the narrative mode to the direction of avoidance, all make the sense of sincerity and reflection of reality mixed with saltiness and oiliness. You say he is not sincere and brave, but he does focus more on the current realistic issues than most of his domestic film peers. You say he is serious enough and deep enough to explore, but he always avoids the more complex but worthy parts, avoiding the direction that can guide the audience to think deeply, but instead uses the “happy mahjong laughing mode”, “big boy martial arts film psychology” and “good people have good fortune” positive energy ending to make a mixture, beautifully said that there is goodness in the world, so that the audience does not have to be so heavy, but whether from the perspective of film technology, or from the perspective of public issues exploration. But whether from the perspective of film technology, or from the perspective of public issues, these make Dapeng’s film courageous, but also shallow.

For example, “Keeping you safe”, Dapeng plays a small man who wants to prove the innocence of a girl out of a sense of justice. The movie has two lines. One is the lady Han Lu was made yellow rumors, a person who had never met her slandered her as a table girl, the rumors rolled bigger and bigger, after her death was still tainted innocence, and even so some people want to move her out of the cemetery, Dapeng and she met in person, but know her naked charity action, think she is a good person, to seek justice for her. The other line is Dapeng’s daughter, who witnessed another girl slandering a classmate at school. She saw the truth, but the perpetrator threatened to tell her about the large birthmark on her leg if she dared to tell her teacher.

Both threads have to do with ‘innocence’. The kernel is “I know a person who has been wronged, should I seek justice for TA”. The subsidiary line echoes the main line, implying “If I stand by today, how can I trust that someone will stand up for me one day when my loved ones, or those around me, are wronged?

So it’s a contemporary martial arts story that moves China’s minor characters version, and Dapeng has coincidentally added the roles of delivery riders and web hosts. Dapeng tries to explore the roles played by rumor mongers, rumor spreaders, victims, eyewitnesses, passersby, and defenders of the legal process in such incidents. The main line, in a nutshell, is that the male protagonist seeks justice for the lady and never gives up for what he believes is the truth and justice. This narrative idea is correct and straightforward, and it is easy for the audience to empathize. But a more complex issue is thus put on hold – what if the person in question is really a woman sitting on a desk?

If she had a gray career, but she also did good, she also encountered online violence and more false rumors, then is her justice still worth defending?

The movie skirts this issue in its characterization. Because Han Lu is innocent and her profession is innocent, the audience can easily empathize with her and feel justified in defending her.

The movie also tries to make up for this through some lines, such as when Wang Xun’s character says to the main character, Wei Pingan, that Han Lu is a desk girl, and Wei Pingan says, “Can’t there be a moral flaw in burying us here?” The creators have their answer to this question, but unfortunately in the film it is a topic that is scribbled and then bypassed, it is not presented in depth, and the main line goes back to the contemporary “save the dust”.

This is not an isolated case of “Keeping You Safe” either; the victim needs to be innocent to deserve to be saved. The two typical narratives: “prostitute” is “patriotic”; “sitting status” is “sublime”. The one who saves the wind and dust should be a man with a sense of justice. He will lay down his life, for his lover and daughter. This is very family, very martial arts, this is a positive energy type of contemporary big boy narrative. A conservative kindness.

Just as Yaoqin in “Man Jiang Hong” must be a martyr and her chastity is not compromised, Liu Yifei in “Meng Hua Lu” must be a virtuous man, and Han Lu in “Keeping You Safe” requires professional innocence, they are saved, celebrated, and given justice, provided that they are “chaste”, at least in terms of “profession” and “identity”, and there is no gray area behind this rescue. Behind this kind of salvation, there is a dark shadow of another kind of chastity, a kind of strict screening of identity (as opposed to giving them justice).

But justice is justice because it is equal. The truth is worth pursuing because it is the truth, the truth that is not shifted by the will or identity of the person concerned, let alone by her chastity or lack thereof.

So the topic that would have been more worth exploring in “Keeping You Safe” is that dark shadow of chastity behind the rumors, how the public demands truth, justice, and opposition to online violence while joining in, defending moralism while doing immoral things, but the creators have coincidentally bypassed it and put it in a safer, more acceptable range for the public. I’m not sure if this is a creator problem or a censorship one, but the creator’s previous film, “Auspicious as a Charm,” had similar problems. There is nothing wrong with making pseudo-documentaries and deconstructing moving, but the ambiguous question is whether the creators dare to present their own hypocrisy, speculation, complexity and internal disagreements when they present the families of the people involved off-camera and dismantle a Chinese style heavy moving story? This courage is not reciprocated, and neither is the cost. So the paradox of this pseudo-documentary is that it looks like you are being truthful, but you can never be fair and equivocally truthful. As long as there is someone behind the camera, someone who decides how to edit, it is a drama dominated by a certain will.

What made Dapeng is this pleasing realism, and what holds him back, at least so far, is also pleasing realism.

The core problem of “Keep You Safe” is precisely that it is afraid of causing “discomfort” to the audience. It needs to maintain Han Lu’s innocence in its persona, to make Wei Ping An do everything possible to prove this innocence, because it is a narrative that does not cause ‘discomfort’, it is quite correct, bright, melodramatic, and does not hit the real gray area inside the audience. But if we want to go deeper into the topic of “rumors”, a creator needs to face the discomfort of the mainstream audience. It is about several issues.

1. Is “pornography” the same as “rumor”? Why do the creators of online violence targeting women like to make “pornographic rumors”? A common way we see on the Internet to ruin a woman is to denigrate her private life. A man with an open private life will not encounter too many accusations, but a woman who is labeled as “slutty” or “slutty” will encounter endless online violence, and even those who humiliate her include those who weep while watching the movie and feel that “rumor mongering” is wrong. What is exposed behind this is the concept of “chastity” that has persisted for millennia on a cultural and conceptual level, a moral requirement that society has for women more than for men.

In “Keeping You Safe”, Han Lu is set up as a person with a clean profession and life style, and justice for such a person will not cause any discomfort to mainstream viewers (including those who have been involved in online violence). However, a more common situation in life is when a person does not exactly meet mainstream expectations, and her style of doing things does not fit into the aesthetics of the mainstream category, she is subjected to online violence and rumor mongering. She may just be more sexually open or in a profession that is not considered “normal” by the mainstream such as “civil servant, teacher, programmer”. When a person is defined as “abnormal”, she is actually more likely to experience violence and humiliation. However, “Keeping You Safe” bypasses this issue in its characterization, because Han Lu is a “normal” person, and her profession and life style are considered “normal” by the mainstream, so Wei Pingan is seeking justice for a “normal” person, a person who is not considered flawed by the mainstream.

And this is where the film falls short. It gives up exploring the more complicated situation that a person who is not “normal” and does not meet “mainstream expectations” will face when facing online violence, both by himself and by those who defend him. If the film dares to make it, even the audience’s reaction to it is part of what happens in the film, and it is the part that can sting the audience and lead to a deeper exploration of the issue.

This issue was discussed in “The Distance Between Us and Evil” and “Corridors of Justice”, and even in the recently released commercial “The Lawyer”. So I don’t think it’s a good idea to avoid all the issues by saying “it takes a lot of coincidence to get past a review”. What’s more, even if the creator is defined as trying to ‘get past the review’, then the audience who made that statement realized that it turns out that defending someone who is not ‘mainstream’, like defending someone who has a gray area, it’s not going to get past the review easily. So what are the people who create the screening network afraid of, and what is the audience afraid of? Didn’t they say they wanted to seriously reflect on online violence? Why are they afraid to present the more common and complex type of people who encounter online violence instead? And this, indeed, is not only the producer’s own regret, but the platform and the concept of society, it is a long road.

2. What this film about “rumors” cannot explore in depth (I don’t think it’s the film’s problem, but the social concept and the scale of the platform that prevent the issue from being developed) is that – are all rumors really harmful? Who defines a rumor? If a person passes on a message out of integrity and it is later qualified as a rumor, how do we deal with this situation?

This question is by no means a nitpicky one. We are in a field where self-publishing is widespread and hot topics take only a few hours to ferment. Let’s say a hot story comes out with clear victims and perpetrators, a dichotomous narrative, and the audience retweets it out of a sense of justice, only to prove afterwards that the truth is not so. But what if there are things that don’t get public attention in the first place, and they sink into the sea, while the potential victims don’t get justice and the perpetrators get away with it? At this time, can you really stand on the high ground of reason and say, “Don’t get so excited, don’t spread rumors?

This absolute rational narrative seems correct, but it overlooks the fact that from the time a matter is fermented, seen, discussed by the public, intervened by the authorities, and verified by the facts, people in the situation cannot be “omniscient”, and the pursuit of the truth is often accompanied by many trials and errors. But if people are not allowed to make trial and error at the beginning, and take the risk that “this news may not be true, but spreading it may save a person,” things will not get out and the oppressed will remain silenced.

So again, this is the more claustrophobic zone of the ‘rumor’ topic – who defines rumors, rules on which ones are harmful, and which ones are inevitable in public communication. One can even imagine this narrative – what if a person who seeks justice for another person ends up creating a rumor instead? Would you feel less sympathy for him at that point? But if he doesn’t, he can’t achieve that purpose of justice that he has in mind? This is a discussion about justice of purpose and procedural justice.

So, I don’t doubt the courage and care of “Keep You Safe”, but whether it’s exploring “making yellow rumors” or “rumors”, this movie chooses to be shallow.

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