A Cultural Reading of a Chinese White-Collar Workplace Bestseller and its Filmic Adaptation: Li Ke’s A Story of Lala’s Promotion and Go Lala Go!

Shenshen Cai

Abstract


In 2007, Li Ke’s novel A Story of Lala’s Promotion (Du Lala Shengzhi Ji) became a bestseller among Chinese white-collar workers in foreign-owned (Western) companies and struck a chord with the Chinese middle class. The novel revolves around office politics, Western company culture and the white-collar lifestyle, the ‘shelved ladies’ phenomenon and middle-class aesthetics. To decipher the embedded cultural codes of this book, this study undertakes a textual analysis of the plots of A Story of Lala’s Promotion and its filmic adaptation, Go Lala Go! (Du Lala Shengzhi Ji dir. Xu Jinglei, 2010). This paper conducts a trans-media adaption study (from fiction to film) to examine three interrelated themes in the novel and the film. First, focusing on the influence of Western corporate culture on Chinese white-collar workers under economic globalisation, the widely circulating rules of Western workplaces are interpreted, clarifying the acculturating process of Western culture over its Chinese counterpart. The paper further explains that on the platform provided by foreign companies, and with the influence and training of Western corporate culture, intelligent and diligent young Chinese aspirational women struggle and realise their dreams in the workplace. Second, employing a feminist perspective, an attempt is made to address the situation of contemporary Chinese white-collar women represented by the contemporary social phenomenon of the ‘shelved ladies’, which also serves as an emblem of female independence and individualism. Third, through an analysis of the filmic adaptation, which focuses on the white-collar female’s lifestyle and consumption habits, the paper also highlights the contemporary Chinese population’s pursuit of a middle-class identity and aesthetic that mirrors the overwhelming consumerism of post-socialist China.


Keywords


white-collar, workplace, middle class, globalisation, shelved ladies, Hollywood style melodrama

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5130/portal.v11i1.3251