The battle of Asian ‘Tiger’ mums on TV

When Singapore’s Tiger Mum meets China’s Tiger Mom and Korea’s Angry Mom

Tiger Mum is the highest-rated drama of 2015 so far, with an average 1 million viewers per episode.
Tiger Mum is the highest-rated drama of 2015 so far, with an average 1 million viewers per episode.
06 May 2015

Tiger Mum is the highest-rated drama of 2015 so far, with an average 1 million viewers per episode.

The legendary ‘tiger mum’ stereotype-figure finally gets some TV screentime on local television in a Channel 8 drama of the – surprise, surprise – same name, Tiger Mum, which just ended its run yesterday (watch the series here).

Lead “mother” figure Hor Xue Mei (played by Huang Biren) shares traits seen in the huge feline cat: she is aggressively outspoken, ferociously protective of her "offspring" and is the disciplinary figure at home. On top of that, her surname ‘Hor’ also means ‘Tiger’ in Hokkien, and that was just about all she had in common with the iconic ‘tiger mum’ stereotype of Chinese families, especially the famous novelised figure portrayed in Amy Chua’s personal memoirs, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.

In this Ch8 drama, Xue Mei is written as an empathetic character who, instead of doggedly pushing her kids to achieve excellence in their studies and work, understands their needs, solves their problems and gently prods them in the right direction like a nurturing figure. And because of Xue Mei’s unique status in the family, she brings with her a Nanny McPhee effect and mends their estranged ties with one another, making Tiger Mum a fun and feel-good watch – that is if you can get beyond Biren’s mock growling speech pattern which, unintentionally, adds to the comic value of the show (pro-tip: You don’t need to sound like a tiger to act like one).

While it was good attempt made by the scriptwriter (Ang Eng Tee) to reconcile with the misinterpreted “tiger mother” stereotype, our heroine is almost too good to be true, with nary a character flaw in her. Still, in all her roaring pristine perfection, she resonated with the masses, crossed the million viewership mark during its run and is the highest-rated drama  of 2015 so far.

Here, we look at how ‘Mdm Hor’ compares to other noteworthy and popular Asian mum figures depicted in recent TV dramas. For those of you experiencing Tiger Mum withdrawal symptoms, you may want to consider these shows for your next TV binge too. You’re welcome.
 
Read on for more.

Tiger Mum from Singapore
Tiger Mum from Singapore
06 May 2015

Tiger Mum from Singapore

Looking past Biren’s gruffly voice and the drama’s over-the-top characters (read: Belinda Lee’s portrayal of a Westernised Singaporean who lives down under), the local edition of Tiger Mum is actually an easy-breezy watch largely due to its simplistic plot – but don’t expect anything other than getting a good laugh or two from the show. Despite its emphasis on the main protagonist, the kids in the Chen family (played by Julie Tan, Ian Fang, Aloysius Pang and Bonnie Loo) are - we think - the true gems of this drama, especially in the earlier episodes when they rebelled and conspired against their would-be stepmother.

Roar-o-meter: 3/5. It was more fun to watch in the beginning or, maybe, we just aren’t interested in what its other secondary characters had to share in the latter half of the show. The show would have resonated better with viewers should it explore society issues in a deeper context or amplified its cliché jokes and go down the comedy route instead.

Watch the full series on Toggle now. 

Angry Mom from Korea
Angry Mom from Korea
07 May 2015

Angry Mom from Korea

What’s mum to do when her teenage daughter (Oh Ah-ran played by Kim Yoo-jung) falls prey to a bunch of school bullies? Well, she takes matters into her own hands by going undercover - as a high school student - at her daughter’s school of course. It helps too that mum (Jo Kang Ja played by Kim Hee Sun), who was a former delinquent in her schooling days, is a fierce ahjumma present day. Be prepared to be thoroughly entertained by the brash and potty-mouthed Kang Ja who tries (very hard) to blend in with high-schoolers two decades her junior– cue mini-skirt, rolled-up track pants, bobby-pinned flat hair and fashionable platform sneakers.

Roar-o-meter: 4/5. Save for Kang Ja’s heroic and comedic attempts to get back at the bullies on her daughter’s behalf, the drama - through the eyes of its heroine - investigates darker and deeper issues at bay in school and probes into the bullying culture that is omnipresent in the Korean society. Watching this drama is like getting a complete set meal at a chicken joint with patbingsu to end off the meal. Very satisfying.

Watch Angry Mom on Oh!K (StarHub TV Channel 816) on Thursdays and Fridays at 10pm.
 

Fresh off the Boat from America
Fresh off the Boat from America
06 May 2015

Fresh off the Boat from America

This sitcom series will go down in history for being the first Asian-American family to have made it big and created an impact on American TV, since Margaret Cho’s All American Girl in the early 90s. Loosely based on the memoirs of Eddie Huang, who was born into a Taiwanese family and raised in America, it chronicles his family’s struggle to assimilate into American life when they uproot from Washington D.C. to Orlando. This laugh-a-minute sitcom accurately depicts the cultural clashes and stereotypes faced by most Asians in America in a light-hearted yet witty context.

Roar-o-meter: 5/5. Jessica (played by Constance Wu) is currently our favourite Asian TV mum at the moment. She’s the true-blue Tiger Mum of the crop: competitive in nature, demanding in terms of school grades, fiercely protective of her Asian roots and the true decision-maker in the family -- now that's the kind of “tiger mum” we grew up with.  

Catch Fresh off the Boat on FOX (Singtel TV Channel 330 and StarHub TV Channel 505) on Sundays at 9.50pm.

Tiger Mom from China
Tiger Mom from China
06 May 2015

Tiger Mom from China

Despite being one-letter apart from each other, China’s edition of their Tiger Mom drama series which stars Vicki Zhao (who will be coming to Singapore to promote the show too!), is nothing like Ch8’s Tiger Mum. In this show, Vicki’s ‘tiger mum’ parenting ways conflicts with her docile husband’s belief of giving their child a “happy childhood” when they start to prep their daughter for primary school. Kind of an alliteration of Amy Chua’s novel – except in a completely different setting, it explores the challenges and competitiveness of bringing up a kid in modern day China - with a good dose of humour and heart.

Roar-o-meter: 3.5/5 for now. Currently showing with only 6 out of its 48 episodes aired so far, the drama is an honest reflection on problems faced by parents trying to raise a kid in the competitive culture today and is applicable to most Asian societies - even Singapore - and not just China. We like what we’re seeing so far. Societal issues? Check. Superstar cast? Check. We’re keeping our fingers crossed for this drama to turn out as good as the hype surrounding it. 

Catch Tiger Mom on STAR Chinese Channel (Singtel TV Channel 507 and StarTub TV Channel 822) on weekdays at 9pm.


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