It’s quite a statement to say, but I’m going to put it out there: this is my favorite wuxia story EVER! This is the second version I’ve seen (the first was the 59 episode, 1983 version, Legend of the Condor Heroes). Whether its crazy 80s special effects or the more sophisticated fare, what stays relatively the same is the story: dimwitted boy and clever girl.
Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I revel in seeing Guo Jing act like a moron (but it is fun), but I’m always amazed at how strong Huang Rong is. She is not only smart, she’s clever (it’s not the same thing). Yeah, she’s got problems playing well with others, but wouldn’t you if your father was Huang Yaoshi (more on him later). This the fascinating thing for me and what tends to at least challenge what we think about warrior women in the west (thanks, Maxine Hong Kingston), namely that Rong is in a lot of ways a teenage girl with skills of her own who helps others (namely, Jing!). She’s girly, and she’ll beat you down.
So, yes, giddy to see Rong, but was ECSTATIC to see my boo, Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, as Huang Yaoshi. He does indifference like no on else! He comes in and out of the story, but it’s always fun when he shows up. Wong does the character justice, and I just find it fascinating that he has enough sense to teach his daughter kung fu before she goes out in the world (unlike other series–yes I’m talking about you, Men and Legends). I mean, look at the expression on the faces of people when they find out that Rong is the daughter of “Evil East.” On the more intellectual side, however, this father-daughter relationship is rare and brings up interesting questions that, dare I say, may challenge some feminist assumptions? For example, she learns from her father, and yes, the mother is out of the picture, but isn’t his parentage what she eventually needs in the big, bad world?
Still thinking (translation: I reserve the right to wax poetic on ESH in a later post!)