Chinese culture is deeply rooted in its strong family bonds, but the show Go Ahead proves that it is not all about blood relations. China still values respect for the elderly and builds on interdependent support among each member of the household. A traditional family would usually consist of a father, a mother, and one or two children. The Chinese drama Go Ahead (以家人之名 , in English In the name of family) aims to transform this depiction. It portrays two fathers, Li Haichao (Tu Songyan) and Ling Heping (Zhang Xilin), raising three non-blood-related children, Li Jian Jian (Tan Songyun), He Zi Qiu (Zhang Xincheng) and Ling Xiao (Song Weilong). Each of them comes from a different background and with a variety of personal struggles.
The series sees a shift in focus from a traditional point of view to a more open and modern society. It reflects on the traditional and the reconstituted family concept by transforming real people’s endeavors into a convincing and authentic storyline. The audience follows three young main characters facing a series of challenges in a success-orientated society. But with the right potion of joyful moments, Go Ahead has managed to capture millions of viewers inside and outside of mainland China.
When tradition meets modernity
The 35-year-old director and actor Ding Ziguang, known for heartwarming drama series such as Find Yourself (2020), Youth (2018), or Midday Sun (2013), has a penchant for storylines that shed light on interpersonal relationships. Not only does he give a new meaning to the Chinese family concept, but he also allows the post-90s generation to identify itself with the peaks and troughs in life while growing up in a rapidly changing society. And in doing so, he creates an audiovisual representation of how tradition can meet modernity.
Over the past 35 years, China has become one of the leading economic and technological forces in the world. This drastic transformation has put enormous pressure on its population as well. As people tend to seek faster methods to have a successful career, to marry rich to achieve social status, as a result, many people feel miserable but are afraid to show it. They want to avoid losing face by showing any personal struggles. The drama series, however, depicts the harmonious life of a decent noodle soup seller, called Li Haichao, who manages to offer time and love to his spouse.
Traditional family vs reconstituted family
Li Jian Jian, a kindhearted girl, grows up with her loving father Li Haichaom, after her mother’s death. One day her father meets He Zi Qiu’s mother, of whom he grows immediately fond. After several encounters, she leaves town without further explanations. She only asks of Haichao to take care of He Zi Qiu during her absence.
Following this, there is Ling Xiao living in the same building as Li Jian Jian. His mother blames him for his little sister’s death while reproaching his father, Li Heping, for his irresponsibility towards his family due to his busy work schedule. Being caught in a cycle of guilt and endless fights, the mother decides to abandon the family. Therefore, Ling Xiao spends most of his time with Li Jianjian and He Zi Qiu, reconstructing a new family under the care of Li Haichao and Li Heping. After their High School diploma, the two brothers will study abroad, leaving Li Jianjian feeling betrayed by their decision. They return home after 9 years, trying to figure out which path to pursue.
Each story reflects someone else’s endeavor in real life
The viewers soon realize the variety of topics the drama is dealing with over the course of 46 episodes. They follow the growth and the experiences of the three youngsters, going from traumatizing family conflicts and peer pressure to love and self-discovery. It might feel overwhelming because it throws the audience into an emotional rollercoaster ride right from the start. Nonetheless, the main subject always revolves around the importance of family and that every hardship in life can be overcome. From the point of view of a family undergoing internal and external changes, it reminds one of the British miniseries Years and Years, but it differs in tone.
According to the director, his friends and acquaintances inspired him with their stories. He wished to bring together different topics on the screen to avoid people feeling alone and hopeless. The show became a massive success among Chinese viewers who described the drama as warmhearted, authentic, and refreshing. He encourages families to adopt an optimistic attitude toward life and to be open to change. The drama was released in mid-2020 and aired on Hunan TV, becoming a hit and taking social media by storm. But it also shed a positive light on the current pandemic everyone was enduring, proving that together we can survive anything.