TAIPEI : The clock is ticking down to presidential elections in Taiwan. Functionaries in the two main parties frantically smear the rival candidate and scramble to shape the image of their own, hiring influencers, coining catchy slogans and framing touching moments with voters on the street.

BUT there is one key difference between the universe of, ''Wave Makers'', a hit political drama that came out on Netflix in April, and Taiwanese reality : in the series the China question, usually the fulcrum of the island's politics, does not exist.

This conceit means that the focus is on  domestic issues rather than grand matters of national identity or the threat of invasion.

Drawing on deep research and interviews, the show zooms in on the sacrifices women were asked to make for supposedly important causes.

It tells a hopeful story of one character standing up for another - and, in a feedback loop between life and art, it has inspired real women in Taiwan to stand up for themselves.

The fictional election is a vehicle to examine thorny questions of politics and morality.  How much should people be willing to give up for the sake of a wider goal?

Where is the line between pragmatic compromise and hypocrisy?

All the characters wrestle with clashes between their political mission and personal ideals.

The liberal presidential nominee is against the death penalty, but dare not say so in public.

A young campaigner is castigated as a sell out by his friends for missing protests because he was busy making party -propaganda videos. His well-worn riposte is that power, not protests, brings about change.

The compromises that have most stirred Taiwanese viewers are those demanded of the two main characters. Played subtly by Hsieh Ying-xuan.

Wang Wen-fang is the daughter of an influential elder in the liberal party. She loses a local election after a public spat with one of her father's conservative friends, who insults her girlfriend.

Weng's mother encourages her to apologise.

In politics, she says, you think of the ''big picture'' and compromise. Weng refuses.  The ''greater good'', she realises, is often just an excuse to cover up wrongdoing.

Witty and propulsive, ''Wave Makers'' was the most-viewed show on Netflix Taiwan within two days of its release : it stayed in the top ten for five weeks. And it has sparked a social reckoning.

Tsai Ing-wen Taiwan's president, has apologised for failing to prevent sexual harassment in her party and across society.

The cabinet has promised to review the  legal framework for such cases and to propose amendments in parliament. The writers are not surprised by the torrent of allegations, but didn't expect their show to unleash it.

'' Everyone must have been holding it in,'' says Ms Chien, '' until they couldn't.''

The World Students Society thanks The Economist. 


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