If you’re not born and raised in Hong Kong, chances are you wouldn’t have heard of Mcdull. But, this unlikely hero deserves your love and attention.
Hong Kong is no stranger to quirky cartoons and adorable pigs (come on, piggy-shaped dim sum? Really?). But, when it comes to the best combination of these things, Mcdull has to take the cake. Yeah, sorry, but Miss Piggy and Peppa Pig can kindly move over.
The protagonist of a cartoon franchise created in Hong Kong in the late 80s, Mcdull has accompanied many of us through our childhood. Meanwhile, adults, such as my mum, have had different interpretations and memories of the series. Sadly, upon revisiting Mcdull in recent years, I realised how little we know or remember about this cartoon, despite its personal, cultural, and even societal significance as a collective memory. And so, it’s time not only for a throwback, but to discuss what we can all learn from this porcine cutie.
My Life as Mcdull
Created by writer Brian Tse and artist Alice Mak, the animated series illustrates the life of Mcdull. At the beginning, the cartoon was only in the form of comics; then, it made its film debut with My Life as Mcdull in 2001. Since then, there have been various TV shows, film shorts, and even feature films, but My Life as Mcdull has always stuck with me the most.
For those of you who don’t know who (or what) Mcdull is, here’s a bit more about him. You see, Mcdull is not your typical star of the show. Instead of becoming the clever and handsome boy his mother had wished for, Mcdull has turned out not particularly smart, nor particularly smooth. Rather, he’s endearingly gullible, innocent, and he always tries his best. Though he tends to fall short of success, he tries, and tries again.
As a child, watching Mcdull make silly mistakes and fail everything was funny—until it isn’t. Because now, it hits a little too close to home.
My life as a Hong Kong kid
Asian parents are notoriously demanding. Well, it may be a stereotype, but this was indeed the case for my family when I was a kid. While they have become less strict nowadays (love you both!), I was brought up under the impression that I mustn’t fail. In fact, anything marginally less than perfect would lead to questions like, ‘How on earth did you manage to make such a careless mistake?’.
At school, I was disciplined. I was taught to stay quiet. Students would be told off if they asked ‘stupid questions’ and ‘wasted everyone’s time’. The environment was so rigid and competitive that eventually, I couldn’t stand it. So I left.
I’m sure this is far from the most intense growing-up story out there, but I hope it resonates with some of you. I’d imagine most of us aren’t as clueless as Mcdull is, but the pressure we get from ourselves, our parents, teachers, and colleagues isn’t unlike what Mcdull has to deal with in his journey. In fact, Mcdull has been telling us all along that it’s okay to fail, and it’s okay to be imperfect—as long as you try, and try again.
Lessons to be learnt
For the sake of this article (which is meant to be more fun and personal), I won’t dive deep into the news and societal issues that Mcdull discusses. But for those who are interested, do listen to the soundtrack of My Life as Mcdull, which is my absolute favourite. Fitting witty Cantonese lyrics into Western classical tunes, the songs talk about the Cheung Chau Da Jiu Festival, its bun-snatching ritual, and the patriotic win of an Olympic gold medal in 1996, by Hong Kong professional windsurfer Lee Lai-shan.
Apart from refreshing our knowledge of Hong Kong’s modern history, Mcdull offers some insights for us grown-ups. Here are some of my key takeaways:
1. Don’t give up!
Hong Kong may be intense, and your boss may be unforgiving, but it’s always worth holding onto the ‘Lion Rock spirit’.
2. If there’s anything that we should give up, it’s the urge to constantly berate ourselves.
I’m talking to you perfectionists out there! It’s cheesy, but it’s true: there’s beauty in imperfection. Just look at how adorable Mcdull is!
3. Return to innocence
Reconnect with your childlike side, so that you can find joy and wonder in everything you do.
4. Dream on, dreamers
Even if reality prevents you from achieving your dreams (happens to the best of us), keep them at the back of your mind. Use them to motivate yourself, and to remind yourself of the good in this world.