Say what you will about the American entertainment industry, but in recent years, it has displayed a willingness to feature women as the main characters and shown that such female-centred movies and TV series can sell too. China’s entertainment moguls love to imitate Hollywood; too bad that seems to be confined to copying Michael Bay and his type of productions that blow things up every few minutes. A new TV series premiered on China’s flagship TV channel, CCTV-1, about the heroes who fought to contain the spread of Covid-19 could have been a corrective by focusing on the key role women played in containing the pandemic. ‘Sexist’ Chinese coronavirus drama slammed for overlooking women Heroes in Harm’s Way should have been about the heroines. After all, that has been how the official state media have been portraying them since the start of the year. It was not just state propaganda. Women really did play a disproportionate role in the fight. Yet, the new drama series has been accused of minimising or even trivialising women. In one supposedly patriotic scene set in Wuhan, the city where the pandemic first broke out, a boss asked a group of bus drivers to volunteer. All the men stood up. One woman also stood up, only to explain why she couldn’t join. Another woman volunteered, but her other female colleagues tried to discourage her. In another scene, several nurses without face masks on were shown gossiping about a handsome doctor. A female doctor was told to step aside and assist the men. Heroes in Harm’s Way should have been about the heroines For God’s sake, didn’t those who made the series read actual newspaper stories? And did they not know the Great Helmsman’s saying: “Women hold up half the sky”? Here I only quote from state official sources about the early medical fighters and volunteers, and I think overall, they qualify as a feminist party line. Former party secretary Cai Li oversaw operations at the Wuhan Central Hospital, where the virus was first identified. Major General Chen Wei, one of the nation’s top virologists, played a key role in working out the epidemiology of the disease and was subsequently cited by President Xi Jinping for a national commendation. According to state media statistics, about one in two doctors on the front line were women and about 70 per cent of frontline medical workers were nurses – more than 90 per cent of them were female. Two-thirds of frontline medical workers in Wuhan were women. More than 90 per cent of nurses and over half of the doctors who went to Wuhan from Shanghai to assist in the first wave of the pandemic were women. In a February report titled, “Coronavirus battle promotes gender equality in China”, the Global Times wrote: “Huoshenshan and Leishenshan, two makeshift hospitals in Wuhan specifically designed for the epidemic, were built within days under the efforts of both male and female workers. ‘Always men’: the sexism problem in China’s gaming industry “Photos of female construction workers at the two hospitals pushing carts and carrying heavy building materials have won lots of praise on Chinese social media. ‘They are modern-day versions of Mulan, strong and beautiful,’ a Weibo user Yuweilu commented.” It’s not too late for the drama series. Shoot more episodes, phase out the male leads and insert more heroines as the new key characters. The Chinese people demand it.