Yuying majored in art education in their undergraduate course, and focused on Chinese painting. During her postgraduate studies, she worked on an illustrative animation project, developing her own style in hopes of becoming a freelance illustrator.
This animation seeks to demonstrate the harmful effects of the traditional patriarchal practices of Chinese parenting to younger audiences. The story focuses on how parents use specific names (such as Zhao Di) for their daughters to highlight their disappointment that their baby is not a son. Calling attention to this, and the long lasting damage this can create on girls’ self-esteem, the animation promotes gender equality.
This is the first version of the character design, with the character style oriented to be more childlike and bright, appealing to the target audience (children and young teenagers). The bright colour palette and naive aesthetic offers a sense of irony when combined with its oppressive narrative, showing the dark nature of the patriarchal culture.
The storyline was based on experiences collected through anecdotal evidence (questionnaires on peers) of Chinese parents’ preferences of sons over their daughters. Utilising insights from literature, a narrative was developed to express common themes and emotions from research.
In China, the preference of a son is a deeply rooted idea. Parents who place their hopes for a son in their daughter’s name can be seen as viewing women as a vessel for their desires. Similarly, women’s bondage to such names can be compared to jars. Thus, the jar becomes a symbol of the protagonists agency (or lack of) as her name fixes her as the object of others.
This character driven animation has been created with Procreate. Simulating a crayon and watercolour texture, the animation imitates the innocence of children, leaning further into their perspectives. Sound Design was focused on making the meanings of Chinese names, like Zhao Di, more accessible, replacing it with sounds of discomfort and annoyance (e.g. mosquitoes, car horns, etc.).
The piano segment of the animation reflects an everyday manifestation of sexism. In the scene Zhao Di, despite her talent and drive for piano playing, is forced to teach her brother, who shows disinterest and little gratitude.
In the animation, the two images of the younger brother winning the piano award and Zhao Di being refused to learn the piano are put together to highlight how early age preferential treatment helps men achieve their success.
Difficulties of name changing are visualised through the myriad of obstacles Zhao Di faces within the storyline. More could be done to streamline the name changing process and support people as they go through it.
In this still, Zhao Di cuts out her new name from paper, demonstrating her growth in agency, creative talent and resilience from her parents’ choices.
Unfortunately, the dream of Zhao Di changing her name is only a dream indicating the solutions of escaping patriarchal ideologies is never as simple as a name change.
In the final scene, Zhao Di no longer flinches at the sound of her name (as mosquito), swatting it and freeing herself from her jar form. No longer can she be considered fragile and no longer will she submit to patriarchal thinking.