People Aren't Sure If This Movie's Theme Song Is Satire Or Sexist

The song is a direct remake of a Japanese song from the '70s that was criticized for sexism during the height of Japan's women's movement.

Chinese movie companies have been known for grasping the principle "all PR is good PR" too well, but a movie theme song nostalgic about ~traditional relationships~ being pre-released coincidentally around the time 3.2 million women took to the streets globally seems a bit much.

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The song, titled — wait for it — "Manifesto of a Big Man," was first released last Friday on 34-year-old Chinese writer/blogger/racer/young dad of the year Han Han's Weibo page to promote his second all-star feature film, Duckweed, competitively scheduled for release this Friday.

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According to a description on review site Douban, the film — set to be released on the first day of the Chinese Year of the Rooster — tells the story of a race car driver, played by Chinese actor Deng Chao, who wants to prove to his father, Taiwanese-Canadian actor Eddie Peng, that he's right about his career choice and goes on a remarkable journey.

So from the start, this film is not really about the woman in the poster: Zhao Liying, the highest-paid actress in the country, plays only a supporting role.

And the song itself is a portrayal of the drunken, a-little-too-honest words of a bridegroom on the eve of his wedding.

"Every night, you can't go to bed earlier than me / Every morning, you are not allowed to wake up later than me / You need to make tasty food, dress up appropriately / And get along with my mom and my sister," the lyrics go.

But then a plot twist! Sort of! The man becomes self-deprecating, saying he has "no ability".

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He then shirks his responsibilities, saying "this family all depends on you," begging the wife to raise their future children and wait to die until after he does when they get old.

The song immediately blew up Chinese social media and generated over 33,000 comments. "The song of straight-man-cancer giant-infants! Negative review!" one user commented, using the country's popular alternative term for male chauvinists.

(Surprisingly, Han hasn't closed the comment section like other celebrities or government organs do when criticism floods in.)

"At first I thought it was very bad, but after you carefully savor the lyrics and the melody a couple of times you'll realize this song is just really bad..." joked another Weibo user.

However, the groom in the song really seems to love the wife, and for even those angels out there who see the best intentions in people, it's a confusing song.

"I listened a couple of times. The lyrics came off very weird, but then you realize it wants to convey that 'you are all I have, I need you, nobody can replace you and please don't leave me I love you,'" noted another.

But there was a further twist of story the next day! Han released a second song that overthrew the narrative of the first, all about a hard-working man who doesn't require anything from his wife.

The second song was released on the day of the global women's march. (China almost never allows civil protests and Chinese women who participated in the march did it abroad.)

It wasn't helpful.

A lot of people assumed that the songs had to be satire. But an article read more than 10 million times explained why that's the case with neither.

"The two songs are too close to real life and so lack a sarcastic tone. To make it ironic, the content needs to be absurd enough to differentiate from the reality," wrote "Queen C-cup," a popular Weibo author.

Han, whose works often promote traditional relationships, complete with happy endings, said after the second song's release: “We thank the feminists for making progressive contributions for the society, but also hope that [they] don't overreact.”

Which triggered more trolls denouncing the feminism movement like this one:

"Girls around me all like this song a lot, don't know where the 'straight-man cancer' the feminists [are talking about]? And the funniest thing is that, did feminists listen to this new song? You can criticize after you read the lyrics."

Han tried to change the topic by writing that the songs are remakes, adapted with authorization from Japanese singer Masashi Sada's 1979 song「関白宣言」(kanpaku sengen).

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But in fact, the Japanese version of "The Manifesto of a Big Man" was created during the rise of the influential ūman libu (women’s liberation) movement in the 1970s in Japan, and was therefore flooded with criticism from Japanese women's rights groups as promoting gender inequality and sexism. The second song from the original author didn't come out until 1994.

The movement in Japan synced with the first wave of feminism movement around the globe after the Second World War.

Japan has long ranked bottom in the World Economic Forum gender equality ranking, whereas Chinese women have seemed to enjoy better equality since Mao famously said women "hold up half the sky," which was a slogan used by some in the women's march last Saturday, several Chinese media outlets excitedly noticed.

So...maybe something more contemporary next time, Mr. Director.