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China

A Chinese Novelist's Perilous Attempt To Save Her Marriage, Online

Essay: Liuliu, one of China’s best-selling authors and keenest observant chroniclers of modern life, has decided to expose her marriage crisis on her Twitter-like microblog account. It is a plot twist that cannot be undone.

Still smiling? Liuliu's bio on her personal website
Still smiling? Liuliu's bio on her personal website
Tang Jiachen

BEIJING - The drama of real life is always better than fiction.

Over the past few days, Liuliu, one of China's best-selling authors, has exposed her own marriage crisis online. When her best-selling novel, Dwelling Narrowness, was first published in 2007 – later to be turned into a popular television drama that tackled gender tensions and housing difficulty in Chinese cities -- her husband had already started having an extramarital affair.

Liuliu's public declaration of war, from the stance of the formally recognized wife, against the "Minor Third" (a Chinese term for the third party of the triangle) mirrors – and ultimately outshines -- the frustrated leading role she created in her fiction.

By way of her Twitter-like microblog weibo account, Liuliu's self-exposure of her "family scandal" has a pre-emptive effect. Her seemingly polite and restrained mini messages successfully define the "enemy" as a marriage destroyer, while she manages to simultaneously demonstrate a wifely legitimacy in defending her marriage.

Thanks also to the online participation of her fans, as well as the immediate flood of media coverage, Liuliu has painted the perfect portrait of an innocent victim.

But we cannot forget that this digital marriage defense is in essence a form of public spectacle. On the surface, Liuliu's attempt to persuade her rival to surrender looks like a public plea against the person who threatens her marriage. But in reality, it is also a contest of the involved parties based on their respective right to speak out.

After Liuliu's public declaration, she rallied more than two million supporters from China's vast blogsphere, whereas the "minor third" has no real means to defend herself. Under such disparity, the latter can be only a prisoner taken away in a metaphoric police van. Contempt, verbal abuse and ridicule are her fate.

Feast for others

What we see in this affair is the vague specter of Internet violence: 2.5 million posts on the subject, many filled with vitriolic language; a wave of photos of the unfaithful husband, his personality and looks picked apart; worse still, people who had nothing to do with the original affair were somehow pulled in and are suffering unprovoked verbal abuse.

However, can Liuliu really win back her husband by denouncing and denigrating her rival? Only she knows. After all, love and marriage have always been a private matter, and only those involved know what is really happening.

Nevertheless, what is certain is that by hanging out one's dirty laundry in the public square, one's life is turned into a feast for the crowd.

Except for a few real friends, nobody really cares about the crises in other people's marriages. When the crowd has finally dispersed, the involved parties will feel like they have been stripped naked.

That a woman, particularly a well-known woman, chose to defend her marriage in this most drastic manner is in itself a very sad thing. It only helps to further blur the boundary between public and private domain. Even if the aggrieved party has found some false sympathy and support, eventually it will not help to solve her problem.

Marriage is never a one-sided business, nor does the breakdown arrive instantly. Rather than using a microblog as a platform of communication, the involved parties would be better off talking to each other calmly in private. This may require a much more formidable inner strength.

Read the original article in Chinese

Photo - Liuliu

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