Review: Zhang Zhehan and “Word Of Honor” Zhou Zishu – A Perspective on Gender Perception

“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.

老婆 (laopo/wife) is the most mentioned word on Zhang Zhehan’s Weibo recently
Zhang Zhehan at the top results when searching 老婆 (laopo/wife) on B Site

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.

Zhang Zhehan in “Legend of Yunxi” and “The blooms at RUYI pavilion”

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. 

Director Chen Kaige commented on Zhang Zhehan’s performance on acting show “Everybody Stand By”

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. 

“Beautiful” should be a neutral word to describe both genders.

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.

Zhou Zishu in the first 6 episodes

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 vibes are completely different between one of Zhang Zhehan’s previous characters and Zhou Zishu

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.

Zhou Zishu’s smile is soft and beautiful

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. 

His movements express tenderness

Even when a scene is tough and fierce, he still expresses it with a certain amount of softness and delicacy.

He still looks delicate despite how strong he is

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. 

The injured beauty

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.

Zhang Zhehan deliberately pulls his clothes loose

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.

Zhou Zishu naturally gets closer to Wen Kexing while talking

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. 

Zhou Zishu reads Wen Kexing’s lips

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.

Zhou Zishu’s subtly painful expression

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”:


Sip Of Tea

6 thoughts on “Review: Zhang Zhehan and “Word Of Honor” Zhou Zishu – A Perspective on Gender Perception

  1. Completely agree! Thank you for writing this so beautifully :”) I’ve been reading reviews of Word of Honor to fill up the emptiness in my heart since it ended and this really helped.

  2. I love your thoughts on ZZS’character and ZZH’s exceptional acting! Exactly!

    Word of Honor is better on second watch to really appreciate ZZH’ acting. On first watch, we are busy processing the story development and WKX’s flirting. On subsequent watch, it’s about noticing ZZH’s micro expressions and his change towards WKX. Well, in my opinion anyway. LOL.

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