“The Making of an Ordinary Woman”: incorporating Taiwanese cultural elements into a unique blend of theater and television storytelling


The two season drama has captured the hearts of Taiwanese audiences with its captivating blend of theater and television storytelling. [Photo Courtesy of The Straits Times]

“The Making of an Ordinary Woman” recently released its second season on Catchplay this past August. With short 45-minute episodes and 10 episodes per season, the show has captured the hearts of many who relate to Taiwanese culture. The first season follows the story of Chen Chia-Lin, played by Hsieh Ying-Xuan, a renowned Taiwaneses actress who previously won the Best Leading Actress award at the 55th Golden Horse Awards. 

Chen Chia-Lin is originally from Tainan, a city on Taiwan’s southwest coast, and has decided to move to Taipei in hopes of establishing a successful career. She lived in Taipei with her boyfriend, who eventually proposed to her, but to everyone’s surprise, she decided to turn down the marriage and travelled back to her hometown to find herself. The story then begins to focus on the daily events she encounters as she lives her life trying to figure out her purpose and navigating life on her own. This series is unique in that there is no structured storyline. Instead, the director purposefully brings the audience on an adventure to explore the various events Chen Chia-Lin encounters, from building her own house in the suburbs to her job as a Tainan travel tour guide. 

This show seemed more than simply a light-hearted narrative of a middle aged woman finding herself; instead, the director purposefully adds scenes from Chen Chia-Lin’s childhood and interweaves them into the main storyline of Chen Chia-Lin’s current life in Tainan. 

More specifically, I feel that this series especially resonates with Taiwanese women who are currently in their 40s. Many of the cultural elements and influences that are seamlessly integrated into the series come from the typical encounters of a Taiwanese woman who is molded by the culture and society around her. The hardships and difficulties Chen Chia-Lin faces allows women from the same era to relate to her and even see themselves in her shoes. 

Yen Yi Wen, the director, comes from a theater background, which allows her to successfully integrate theater acting into the traditional way of storytelling. In particular, the director integrated a scene in which Chen Chia-Lin dramatically runs to her boss’s office while all the employees stood in a typical theater formation in which they delivered dialogues as if they were monologues. I thought this innovative way of incorporating rather dramatic scene sequencing within a traditional television series framework truly adds an element of interest to those who do not usually enjoy drama acting. 

Overall, I would recommend those who resonate with Taiwanese culture to watch the series as it perfectly synthesizes cultural elements as well as relatable storylines to make up a fun, breezy two-season series.