New release “My Sister” sparks moral debate about family values online

A film depicting the tensions between personal ambitions and family values has sparked a moral discussion on social media. My Sister 我的姐姐 has just been released in cinemas in China, and its related hashtag has already gained over 340 million views on Weibo

The lead character An Ran, played by Zhang Zifeng, faces the difficulty of deciding whether to prioritise her dreams of a postgraduate or look after her 6-year-old brother following her parents’ death in a car crash. The story touches on an array of issues in Chinese society: the responsibilities placed on women; traditional family values and relationships; and the preference placed on sons over daughters.

As well as resonating directly with a lot of individuals, many people also discussed how they would respond to the difficult decision An Ran has to make. A poll on Weibo asking what netizens would do in her position received 180 million views and the following responses:

  • 46,000 voted that it’s not necessary for her to look after her brother 
  • 20,500 said it should be based on what the sister is willing to do it 
  • 13,700 replied that the sister should look after her brother

One netizen commented:

“The sister in the movie sets a really good example for females as she doesn’t choose to sacrifice her dream for her brother at the beginning. It’s a movie that every family should watch together. There are many social issues that we all need to try our best to tackle.”

The attention on My Sister follows another family-focused hit, Hi, Mom, which took to cinemas during Chinese New Year and became the second-highest-grossing film of all time in Chinese cinemas. Hi, Mom portrayed the relationship between a daughter and her mother. The popularity of the two films and their attention on social media is because of their exploration of family relationships and values.

Several TV shows centring on the lives of women also kicked up a storm in China last year, among them Nothing But Thirty, Hear Her and Sisters Who Make Waves. They addressed several of the issues facing women in Chinese society, including age and gender expectations. The discussion of traditional family values and gender norms in Chinese TV shows and films has provoked a wider debate among netizens on social media.

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