‘Miss Shampoo’ is a Taiwanese romantic comedy film by director Giddens Ko that follows the life of a simple hairstylist, Fen, which takes a dramatic turn when she accidentally saves the life of a gang boss, Tai. Fen labors day and night with the ambition of working in a chain hairstyling salon. One night, a wounded gangster boss stumbles into her salon, and with her help, hides from his rival at the establishment.
To repay her kindness, he instructs all his underlings to go to her salon for haircuts. He frequently visits himself, changing hairstyles in order to spend more time there as he is increasingly smitten by her. Fen in turn mirrors his interest, and the two vastly different individuals find a common passion in their burgeoning love for each other. The tale of the star-crossed lovers is lively, humorous, and heartwarming, making one wonder if such a situation has ever happened, and if the story is based in reality.
Is Miss Shampoo a True Story?
‘Miss Shampoo’ is not inspired by a true story, but based loosely on Giddens Ko’s own 2010 novel, ‘Precisely Out of Control.’ The novel follows multiple subplots, and is in a different genre as compared to the rom-com movie, although it does provide inspiration for some of the characters and storylines.
The novel sees a terminally ill office worker grapple with the impending finality of his existence, attempting to make the most of his last month alive. Simultaneously, a high school girl experiences relentless bullying, navigating the complexities of adolescence amidst social adversity. An underworld figure grappling with personal conflicts, and wants to cut his hair once again. Intersecting with these narratives is the subplot of a doctor concealing a secret, whose journey becomes the act of burying the truth during a trip. Another storyline sees a man driven mad with infatuation and devotion for his goddess.
The motif of starcrossed lovers from completely different, and often incompatible backgrounds is not a new one in media, with examples dating as far as Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet.’ One such striking film is ‘My Wife Is a Gangster,’ which is like a mirrored image of ‘Miss Shampoo’ with a kindhearted and simple man accidentally marrying a gang boss woman. While it does have many elements of a romantic comedy, it focuses more on action and gang violence.
The 1998 film ‘Out of Sight,’ featuring George Clooney and his partner as bank robbers, sees an unlikely romance between Clooney’s character and Karen (Jennifer Lopez), a marshal who is supposed to capture him. ‘The Town,’ a 2010 movie directed by and starring Ben Affleck, sees masked robbers barge into a bank and hold all hostages at gunpoint. However, one of them falls in love with the assistant manager and later approaches her after the robbery. Not knowing his identity, she begins to fall for him. Their unlikely romance is endangered when his partners fear it will pull him away from a life of crime.
A 2015 romantic comedy, ‘Mr. Right’ touches on similar themes as ‘Miss Shampoo’ with a young girl falling in love with the perfect guy, only to find out he is a hitman on the run from the cartel. However, their feelings for each other are genuine, and they save each other in multiple hilarious ways as his past catches up with him. The Chinese film ‘Better Days’ also sees an ordinary girl and a criminal doing good for one another. It follows a brutally bullied teenage girl as she finds safety and belonging in a romance with a street thug, who promises to protect her as she prepares for the national exams.
While romanticizing such relationships might occur in fiction, real-life instances often involve complexities and might not always resemble the narratives portrayed in media or literature. In some cases, individuals involved in criminal activities might have personal lives separate from their illicit dealings. There have been stories of gang leaders or individuals associated with criminal organizations forming relationships, getting married, and leading seemingly ordinary lives away from their illegal activities.
‘Miss Shampoo’ takes advantage of a tried and tested formulae of a starcrossed romance involving a criminal, but puts a comedic twist on it, leading to hysterical situations as well as heartwarming moments. The film finds direct inspiration from Giddens Ko’s novel ‘Precisely Out of Control,’ utilizing some of its storylines and characters.
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