Ode to Joy has been acclaimed for its realistic depiction of the hidden struggles of metropolitan life

Remember Nirvana in Fire and The Disguiser? The production team behind these hit period dramas premiered its latest show last month.

The 42-episode series, titled Ode to Joy, revolves around five young women living on the 22nd floor of Shanghai’s “Ode to Joy” high-rise community. They become friends while pursuing love and career advancement.

Since its debut on April 18, Ode to Joy has been acclaimed for its realistic depiction of the hidden struggles of metropolitan life.

“The audience can relate to the characters since their experiences can be traced back to real life too,” commented the Dahe Daily. “Even better, female audiences can find themselves in one or two of the characters because the characters embody feminine archetypes found throughout the society.”

But the idea of following a group of women as they navigate city life is hardly a pioneering concept. In many ways, Ode to Joy resembles American TV series like Sex and the City (1998-2004) and Desperate Housewives (2004-2012).

These two series were acclaimed for their feminist themes, but they also employed well-known female archetypes to illustrate the range of dilemmas women face. Deborah A. Macey, a communications professor at Saint Louis University in the US, divides these archetypes up in four ways: the iron maiden, the sex object, the child, and the mother.

111“The iron maiden is portrayed as masculine and career-oriented. The sex object unabashedly owns her sexuality and genuinely loves her body. The child archetype is naive, optimistic, and dim-witted. The mother archetype connects the characters in the series and serves as the dominant storyteller,” Macey said on the online media forum “In Media Res”.

Sounds familiar? Yes, these features can be seen in the characters of Ode to Joy. Andy He (Liu Tao), for instance, partly embodies the “iron maiden” role. She’s super smart, rational and direct. She moves from the US to Shanghai and takes the position of CFO at a top Chinese company.

Fan Shengmei (Jiang Xin) can be seen as the “mother” in the series. Despite the fact that she’s navigating her own family issues, she takes her friends under her wing and stands up for them.

With that being said, Ode to Joy doesn’t lack creativity. It puts a twist on the existing formula by assigning the “child” role to two characters–the straightforward, naive Qiu Yingying (Yang Zi), and the good-tempered, hard-working Guan Ju’er (Qiao Xin).

But this genre has its risks. Having five main characters means the drama isn’t story-driven but character-driven.

“It’s not something you often see in Chinese TV dramas,” Yuan Zidan, Ode to Joy’s screenwriter, told Changjiang Daily. “But we want to challenge the norms.”