Chiang Kuoyu, MA, Graduate Institute of Taiwan Literature, National Taiwan University
Written and directed by Huang Chunming, the TV serial My Name Is Lotus is based on actual events – the 1980s’ sexual trafficking of Paiwan poet Malaosz Monaneng’s sister Lotus, and the bitter struggle to win her freedom. A hybrid of factual circumstances and fiction-writer’s fancy, the serial realistically portrays individual desires and sweeping social changes, exploring the conflicts among various groups in Taiwan prior to the ending of martial law.
Pressured by the economic burdens of modern life, Lotus’s parents sell her to white slavers in Taipei, where a gangland boss subcontracts her to brothel owners. Thus, she loses both her freedom and her innocence. Only in her contact with an aged army sergeant, a naïve student, and other understanding customers does she experience human kindness. Subsequently, her mother is framed and sent to prison. Overcome with grief, her father kills himself. Lotus’s older brother, Gao Lizhi, has been away at sea, and is unaware of the situation until he returns to Taitung several years later. He looks everywhere for his sister but can’t find her. He then takes part in a singing competition on the popular TV show “Five Lights Award,” crooning a self-composed ballad of longing for his missing sister, hoping to contact Lotus by way of media exposure. But just as brother and sister are about to be reunited, Lizhi is murdered by sex-trafficking gangsters in a red-light district. Another brother, Gao Liren, is performing military service; when he takes leave to return to Taitung for Lizhi’s funeral, everything has changed. With the help of an army counselor, also an aborigine, Gao Liren successfully obtains official help in his search for his sister – in the end, military police confront the gangsters who have imprisoned Lotus and force them to free her.
For Taiwan the 1980s was a period of rapid economic growth and democratization. The market was constantly expanding, and the destructive force of capitalist monetary exchange had already made inroads into isolated mountain villages, disintegrating Paiwan unity and putting an end to the tribal tradition of self-sufficiency, forcing once-proud warriors to seek work as low-paid laborers. Under economic pressure, tribespeople gradually began leaving their native villages in search of work. The more fortunate found jobs on ocean-going fishing boats, or in so- called “3-d” industries: dirty, debilitating, and dangerous modes of employment. Others gravitated to marginally legal businesses controlled by criminal organizations – capitalism’s seamy underside. Lotus is a symbol – what she represents is the power of human unity and cooperation, and the fact that the sex industry has turned intrinsic drives for love and sex into a source of profit. With great originality, My Name Is Lotus infers the general from the particular, showing how modern social structures have warped true human emotions – yet even amidst this distorted social model, happiness may still be chanced upon, if only in passing.
|Related Literary Themes：||Class in Literature|