Chinese television drama series Nothing But Thirty <三十而已> follows the lives of three women who take matters to their hands as they come across different challenges in life in their thirties. One of the stand-out performances on the show is delivered by Tong Yao (童谣), who plays Gu Jia, a homemaker and housewife.
It is no easy feat to be a homemaker. Not only does Gu Jia have to take care of their son, she is also conditioned to help out at her husband’s company whenever help is needed. From Gu Jia’s personality, to her strength as a mom and wife, and to her life’s achievements, this character is a hot topic of debate on many discussion forums. It has led netizens to discuss whether or not full-time housewives can also be considered as what Chinese culture defines as an “independent woman.”
“Being a full-time housewife was meant to be only one chapter in her life,” said Tong Yao, in an interview about her character Gu Jia. “She has a very independent way of thinking. Her properties have legal protection. Towards the end [of the series], she will leave the home and establish her own career. In my opinion, she is a brave, independent woman.”
In the thirteen episodes that have aired thus far, Gu Jia’s main focus was to be a perfect housewife and mother. To fight for the best education for her child, Gu Jia went to extreme lengths to guarantee her child a spot at a high-ranking kindergarten. She was able to achieve this while also supporting her husband at work. In this world, Gu Jia has no choice but to put more importance in her relationships and financial power.
In the housewife arena, socializing and establishing good relationships are the secrets to winning. While Gu Jia has always believed that she would be able to prove her value as long as she worked hard, she quickly learned that all battles end with scars—but these were still battles she thought she was meant to fight.
She had believed in the battles, but Gu Jia felt lost in her purpose. She thought being a successful housewife would give her happiness, but it gave her nothing but emptiness. Hearing other wives referring each other as “Mrs.” instead of the their first names led Gu Jia to forget her own name. After coming to her awakening, Gu Jia decided that she should bow out of these battles, and find her own life to live.
“It takes a lot of courage to leave what you’ve already established,” said Tong Yao. “Gu Jia joined the ‘team’ because she felt that, as a mother and wife, that was her responsibility to do so. To leave the team to walk on an unknown road is what makes her very brave.”
There Is No Such Thing as a Perfect Woman
There is no such thing as a perfect woman, and Nothing But Thirty screenwriter Zhang Yingji (张英姬) wanted to convey that message in telling the stories of three different women, all who have found very different ways to climb their own mountains.
Wang Mannei (portrayed by Jia Shuying 江疏影) is a woman who will climb any mountain as long as she finds it challenging. Zhong Xiaoqin (portrayed by Mao Xiaotong 毛晓彤) is one who will only climb if she has someone with her. She will not overexert, and she will definitely stop once she reaches a comfortable place. Gu Jia, on the other hand, is already thinking about reaching the peak before climbing, regardless if she is alone or with other people.
In a sense, the scriptwriter purposely wrote Gu Jia to be the perfect woman of thirty. She is married, with a successful husband and a young son. She is living the dream, but Gu Jia does not feel complete. She feels lost. She is flawed. She has episodes of succumbing to her own greed and disregard those around her.
“She is someone who chases after perfection,” said Tong Yao. “Obviously, this is stressful for those around her. She hides things. She isn’t perfect, but in front others, she has to stay perfect.”
Her chase for perfection and her stubbornness to maintain this image has affected many relationships in her life. She chases after what she believes is right for others. Because of this, she and her husband start to see and value things differently, putting a strain on their relationship.
Gu Jia’s personal struggles gives life to the character. Many viewers are able to relate to her, and in her character find a shadow of themselves. There’s still a lot left to learn from the women of Nothing But Thirty, and maybe like them, we too can find courage in ourselves to walk on a road that is meant for us.
“Nothing But Thirty” Trailer
This article is written by Addy for JayneStars.com.