I’ve told myself over and over again not to watch any historical dramas when the male lead is the Emperor. Unfortunately, I have an extremely soft spot for Wallace Huo and zero immunity against his good looks. Thus I ended up watching The Imperial Doctress.
The result was except for Wallace Huo and the last minute of the final episode, the whole drama made me felt nothing but anger at myself. That one minute in the finale which was designed to console the audience didn’t work for me. It failed to compensate for how depressed I was while watching this 50 episodes drama.
Although I love romance, watching a man who has a perfectly good wife falls in love with another woman is not my idea of fun. With how much I love the undying and unconditional love, I loathe both the homewrecker and cheater.
I know it’s not fair to call Liu Shi Shi (Tan Yuan Xian) and Wallace Huo (Zhu Qi Zhen) a homewrecker and a cheater for technically neither Tan Yuan Xian nor Zhu Qi Zhen blatantly act on their feelings. Nevertheless, I just can’t bring myself to root for them.
I can’t condone a romance that destroys a perfectly good marriage. Nor could I love a man who lets himself falling for another woman when he is already married and there is absolutely nothing wrong with his marriage. It goes without saying that I’m extremely allergic to anything remotely related to adultery and polygamy.
When I waste my precious and limited time to watch something, I want that thing to make me feel happy and not to raise my blood pressure. But there are so many things in The Imperial Doctress that suffocate me. One of those things is the plight of Empress Qian, Zhu Qi Zhen’s wife.
Let’s try to put ourselves in Empress Qian’s shoe first.
How would you feel when your husband is in love with another woman? Yes, he doesn’t leave you, but not because he doesn’t want to. He spends every minute and every second he is with you thinking about the other woman. And you have to pretend that everything is perfectly fine when you know for sure that his heart doesn’t belong to you anymore.
Of course being an Empress we should not forget that we have no problem sharing our husband with a bunch of other women. So, knowing our husband is sleeping with other women is actually not that big of deal because we know when he sleeps with them at least the only thing that involves is his body. The intimacy between them would at most only enable those women to get some of his favours. We could still console and fooling ourselves by saying that it’s us that he loves.
But that’s not the case with this particular girl Tan Yun Xian. Although they are not being physically intimate she already owns the very heart and soul of your husband. You can see that when he is sitting right next to you, his mind is miles away with her. And when he is away he doesn’t even remember to go home, you have to send people to look for him and ask him to come back.
To make thing worse in the most intimate moment you can’t stop wondering whether you have finally become one of those women he casually sleeps with.
All that you have now is the mere shadow of the man that he used to be. All that he gives you are no longer enough to make you happy because you are no longer sure whether they are heart felt. But all that you can do is to pretend that everything is perfectly fine, because you have no other choice.
Women have to stay in a relationship without a way out. They are forced to share their husband with other women just to have a husband. They are seen as nothing but a tool to be used either to form a political alliance or as a baby factory.
I’m not saying that being a wife and a mother is the worst thing that could happen to a woman. On the contrary, I have nothing but admiration for women who decide to choose to forsake their independence and freedom to be someone else’s wife and mother. But the key word is ‘choose’.
Being a wife and a mother carry huge consequences and responsibilities therefore they have to do it on their own freewill. Women need to choose that they want to give up creating their own happiness and success and instead letting their husband and their children to determine them.
A woman who chooses to be a wife could never be truly happy or considered to be successful unless she is being loved by her husband and succeeded in making her children worthy to be admired.
What if a woman decides she doesn’t want to let her happiness and success to be determined by other people? Too bad for her, men create a system which makes it impossible for women to be independent. Throughout history it is easy to see that inequality has been systematically built by men to oppress women.
Even now in this 21st century women are still used as a sex object. If they want to be successful they are still required to use their beauty to please men. Women are competing to be the most beautiful in a beauty pageant by showing off their assets to win with not even the slightest sense of how degrading that is.
Why don’t we have a beauty pageant for men so we could see them parading on stage wearing only a pink speedo for our pleasure? Well, because we don’t rule the world. But even if we women rule the world I don’t think we would want to demean our men into a sex object. Women don’t lust after men like men lust after women, therefore women never see men as an object to be collected and used for their own pleasure.
We would never think to brainwash our men into thinking that using their body by parading half naked in front of us to gain our favours is actually an honour and a sign of how powerful they are. No men would buy that argument. Only women would believe that by giving men what they wanted for free is a good bargain and an honour.
Men might not want to admit it but their oppression of women is driven partly by their lustful nature. If they want to treat women as a sex toy then it is in their interest that those women stay stupid and powerless. Stupid women would never realize that they have lost their human rights and that men have turned them into objects. Powerless women could do nothing even if they are smart enough to realise that they have been robbed off of their rights and have become a second class citizen if not even worse.
Now, let’s take a look at Tan Yun Xian the female lead.
This is the first time that I don’t get jealous of the female lead who gets the love of all the male characters in the drama because I would find it extremely offensive if a married man who already have numerous wives and children confessing his love for me or wanting me to be a member of his harem.
But men are blessed with thick skin or incredible sense of entitlement that make them feel that there is nothing wrong in wanting another woman to add into their collection.
Zhu Qi Zhen the Emperor of Ming Dynasty already has an Empress that he loves. No matter how much he loves Tan Yun Xian he can’t make her his Empress. She could only be one of his concubines, sharing the man she loves with other women. And he feels no shame in admitting that he already has a wife.
Zhu Qi Yu who loves her marry another woman in order to replace Zhu Qi Zhen as the Emperor. Not only he marries her for power, he also intentionally uses their intimacy as a tool to hurt Tan Yun Xian. He puts other woman as his Empress and gives Tan Yuan Xian no option but to be his lowly concubine. She becomes nothing but an outlet to vent his lust and temper. And a punching bag for both his Empress and mother.
Ye Xian the ruler of Northern Yuan who also wants Tan Yun Xian already has his own Empress as well as numerous concubines, again, the female lead could be nothing but another lowly concubine.
I feel nothing but pity for Tan Yun Xian. She is without a doubt one of the most pitiful female leads in drama land. Other male leads in other dramas compete to make the female lead their one and only true love, but her male leads only want her to be one of their women. Not only they couldn’t give her their full heart they couldn’t even give her the exclusive right to their bodies.
What makes thing more ironic is that she actually doesn’t need to depend on men to live. She is capable enough to support herself with an admirable profession. Unfortunately, the world she lives in doesn’t treat women of her profession kindly.
The same thing still happens in the 21st century. Women who try to work in the field which traditionally belongs to men face more hardship and challenges than men themselves.
The Imperial Doctress has royally screwed up in the romance department. Therefore they should have at least tried to be good enough in other department, for example in building the female lead character into a carrier oriented one. They should have expanded more effort in showing how she builds her carrier to become one of the best female physicians in the Ming Dynasty. The Imperial Doctress also fails to do so.
I might be a little bit too harsh in my assessment because of how disappointed I’m with this drama’s romance but at least for people who look either for romance or another Dai Jang Geum I could say that this one would not satisfy you.