Blood and Water, an eight-part mini-series, is a Chinese Canadian crime drama set in Vancouver where the characters speak Mandarin, Cantonese and English, a reflection of Canada’s multicultural landscape. What’s groundbreaking is that the Chinese characters are not props or side storylines on a mainstream television show. They’re not subjects to stereotypes either.
The premiere episode, debuting on OMNI Television on November 8, introduces us to Detective Jo Bradley, a young Asian female cop who gets assigned to lead a high profile case involving the homicide of Charlie, the junkie son of a wealthy and prominent Chinese family, the Xies. We see her have a power struggle over this case with her partner, an older white male who can’t let go of the accusation that she got this case because of her ethnicity, not because of merit or capability. Dealing with race at the workplace is probably something that a lot of different ethnicities experience in Canada and can appreciate seeing represented on screen.
The second episode, also airing on Sunday, focuses more on the aftermath of Charlie’s death, the Xie family and the heavily pregnant wife he left behind. Language in this show is used strategically where the tension between the Xie family and Charlie’s pregnant wife, is emphasized when the Xie family members speak Mandarin and Charlie’s wife speaks Cantonese whenever they are trying to communicate to each other. By speaking to each other in different languages, it adds to their tension when there is symbolically, no common ground for them to communicate to each other. This use of language reflects the real cultural differences between the two groups and helps tackle the stereotype that Chinese culture is homogeneous.
The story has an added layer where we find out that Detective Jo Bradley is diagnosed with uterine cancer and can only survive if she gets a hysterectomy. This detail is making me curious. Having an Asian female lead in a television show is rare, especially one that is not sexualized. Potentially having her female organs removed and having a unisex name tells me that in order to be a believable strong Asian female character, she needs to be made as masculine as much as possible. Without delving too much into Anthropological theory, being Asian was, historically, seen to be stereotypically feminine, and I can’t help but to think that these characterizations are attempts in balancing her gender identity in order to make her an acceptable lead.
Each episode of Blood and Water is 30 minutes long, which makes it hard to develop a character in each episode. But this show has potential in building an interesting leading Asian female character, and we can only continue to watch and see where her character development goes. It also has great potential to (finally) bring the prominent multicultural landscape of Canada to our small screens. It is 2015, after all.
BLOOD AND WATER premieres Nov. 8 at 10 p.m. ET/PT and 10:30 p.m. ET/PT, and will air regularly Sundays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on OMNI Television.