“Is it me or Zhou Zishu is getting more beautiful every episode?”
“The more I look at Zhang Zhehan, the more delicate he is!”
“My wife is so beautiful!”
The Emergence of The Internet Wife
Following the broadcast of the current web drama “Word Of Honor,” many people express that Zhang Zhehan’s character Zhou Zishou is getting more delicate and beautiful. It gets to the point that people who have never been fond of genderbending before can’t help but call Zhang Zhehan their “laopo” (老婆/ wife).
Now that the most mentioned word in the actor’s Weibo comment sections is “laopo.” When we search for “laopo” on Bilibili (B Site), the most popular long video platform in China, all the top results will be Zhang Zhehan’s videos, which makes him the unofficial B Site’s wife. The hot search “Why is Zhang Zhehan called laopo?” also trended on Weibo.
This phenomenon is both funny and potentially controversial at the same time. Using a word usually used to describe women such as “wife” to refer to a man has broken the social norms and gender stereotypes. Zhang Zhehan himself seems to be laid back with being called “wife”, but overly feminizing a man in front of the general public may affect the actor’s image.
It’s hard to say if this will cause any negative effect, but as for now, most people still perceive it positively. The phenomenon shows that gender should not be a constraint on beauty and how good acting skills could create an astonishing duality.
The Changes in The Actor’s Image
Zhang Zhehan has been in the industry for 10 years with plenty of films under his belt. He has acting skills and works really hard, yet he hasn’t gotten the attention he deserves until “Word of honor.” What has happened actually?
When Zhang Zhehan was under screenwriter and producer Yu Zheng’s management (he has now signed with Zhao Wei’s company), the general public was under an impression that he is a “tough guy” due to his interest in sport and lean athletic build. He was previously known for his roles in “Legend of Yunxi” or “The blooms at RUYI pavilion” which were quite similar in terms of characteristics and appearances – cold, tough, and resolute.
People are saying that Yu Zheng took 10 years to build Zhang Zhehan’s “tough guy” image, while Chen Kaige could see Zhang Zhehan’s charm at a glance. In the acting show “Everybody Stand By,” director Chen Kaige said that Zhang Zhehan radiated charm and had a pair of affectionate eyes.
Chen Kaige’s comment in the show was also a reason Zhang Zhehan was chosen for the role of Zhou Zishu without casting. Zhou Zishu, a character who is soft inside tough outside, represents a beauty that highlights the softness of his appearance.
His facial features tend to be exquisite and radiate a sense of vulnerability, especially his eyes, which are really charming. Long hair helps shift people’s attention from his rather masculine bone structure and face shape to his delicate facial features, which emphasizes his facial advantages.
Zhang Zhehan’s strong personality in real life and his physical advantages are probably the main reasons that he’s not overly feminized. Since he has that natural masculine energy, people perceive calling him “wife” as an appreciation of beauty instead of truly thinking him feminine.
Zhou Zishu is An Embodiment of Men’s New Form of Beauty
Talking about the quality of actors, the greatest quality of a woman is intelligence, strength, sometimes some sort of looney; for men, it’s a sense of vulnerability, someone who is able to reveal that he can be hurt and he is sensitive.Jodie Foster
If Zhang Tianai was famous for her strong and witty character in “Go Princess Go,” Zhang Zhehan is popular because everyone sees a sense of vulnerability and tenderness in his Zhou Zishu. Zhang Zhehan has a strong contrast between himself and Zhou Zishu which shows how carefully he interprets and connects with the character.
At first, Zhou Zishu still either overlaps with Zhang Zhehan’s previous characters or has an unattractive appearance. In the first 6 episodes, Zhou Zishu is the cold-blooded leader of an assassin group who kills people against his own conscience and a sloppy beggar who is ready to die.
From the moment Zhou Zishu removes his mask and shows his true appearance, his style and vibe are completely different from the costume dramas Zhang Zhehan performed before.
The temperament that he exudes is softer and brighter. The scene where Zhou Zishu fakes his cough to ask Wen Kexing to get some food and smiles to himself is so beautiful that it’s so unreal.
When Zhou Zishu meets the right person who makes him want to continue his life, he is getting much more lively and beautiful. From here, his every expression and movement was full of exquisiteness.
Even when a scene is tough and fierce, he still expresses it with a certain amount of softness and delicacy.
When protecting his apprentice, he suffers internal damages and vomits blood. He holds his body with a sword to prevent himself from falling. An injured beauty speaking in a weak tone while still showing his fierceness toward enemies is the sexiest thing ever.
In the sun-bathing scene, Zhou Zishu exudes an elegant and tender aura as he leisurely rests. Zhang Zhehan deliberately pulls his clothes loose because he knows that is what Zhou Zishu would do when he is in the most relaxed state ever since leaving Tian Chuang.
Zhou Zishu also naturally gets closer to Wen Kexing while talking as his body is in the most pleasant state, and the person in front of him is someone he’s comfortable with. His movements are softer and his body seems to emit light.
Zhang Zhehan’s ability to manage micro-expressions and focus on meticulous details subtly shows the decline of Zhou Zishu’s five senses due to the torture of seven orifices and three autumn nails. His fragility hurts the viewers, yet he tries to hide and endure his pain so well that it wounds us even more.
When Wen Kexing calls him, Zhou Zishu subtly frowns as he can’t hear. He tries to read Wen Kexing’s lips and then responds with a smile.
Because of the nails in his body, Zhou Zishu can’t get up normally. When Wen Kexing fails to pull him up the first time, Zhou Zishu’s facial expression is stiffened due to pain, and the veins on his forehead pop out while he still tries to maintain a smile.
When breaking down in tears, he emits such fragile and melancholy feelings.
Zhou Zishu is such a complicated character with 2000 layers, as Zhang Zhehan said in an interview. Zhou Zishu is strong yet fragile, determined yet gentle. People have a strong desire to protect and unconsciously want to treasure him that they naturally call him “laopo.” Now it’s not just about gender perception, but the character’s attractiveness and the actor’s performance.
Zhou Zishu is like tea. The more you taste, the more you immerse yourself in this bittersweet longing.
More on “Word Of Honor”:
- “Word Of Honor” Takes Me Back To My BL Fangirl Obsession.
- Thoughts on Zhou Zishu and The Ending of “Word Of Honor.”