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Saturday June 26, 2010

TV dating show exposes the material girls of China

A popular TV programme has turned into a soap opera of the money-worshipping young generation in China.

AFTER our dinner at a Chinese friend’s house, we were glued to the television. The Chinese friends went gaga over the popular TV programme “If You Are the One” (Fei Cheng Wu Rao) produced by Jiangsu TV.

The match-making reality show featuring men and women looking for perfect partners has received the highest ratings in China’s satellite TV since its debut in January.

The humour and wittiness of both the host and commentators and the unpredictable outcome of the match-making process where a suitor, who comes on stage each time, may be voted out by 24 women at the start or midway into the show.

The women may choose to push the button to keep the suitor in the show and observe him further to see if he is the Mr Right. If the man survives three rounds of tests, he gets to select his date.

But what made the show dramatic was the blunt criticism of the suitors’ appearance, attitude and accomplishments by the glamorous and often intimidating line-up of young women.

“The show appeals to TV viewers who discuss the participants’ looks, behaviour and so on,” my Chinese friend said. “It reaches one climax after another.”

From an entertainment programme that provides a chance for young Chinese to express their views on marriage and love, the show has turned into a soap opera and sort of a reflection of the money-worshipping young generation.

One of the participants, Ma Nuo, stirred up controversy when she rejected a suitor’s invitation to ride with him on his bicycle. “I would rather cry in a BMW,” the 22-year-old girl said. Ma earned herself the material girl image and often engaged in squabbles with some suitors who condemned her character.

Some said the views of the participants on the programme resonate with today’s young generation and they worry that it will have a negative impact on society. But others said these participants do not represent mainstream Chinese society, which still believes in hard work.

A suitor, Liu Yunchao, 23, was equally controversial for boasting of his six million yuan (RM2.8mil) bank balance and three sports cars. But he was voted out even as he defended himself by saying that he was being honest.

Another attractive participant became entangled in a scandal as her nude photos were being circulated on the Internet.

The show and several similar dating programmes produced by Hunan and Zhejiang TV stations have been under the censorship board’s close scrutiny following criticism of fake participants and promotion of loose moral.

Many people alleged that some of the guests on the programmes did not enter the show to date but use it to get a toehold in the show business. They said the production teams used controversial and charismatic guests as decoys to spice up their shows.

Last week, the State Administra­tion of Radio, Film and Television issued guidelines for dating reality shows, forbidding TV stations from fabricating guests on their programmes and promoting bad moral values.

Since then, Zhejiang TV has announced that its “Run for Love” show had been suspended permanently and its time slot had been replaced by another unrelated programme. Jiangsu TV had said that it would make changes to the line-up of participants in future shows of “If You Are the One”.

Columnist Gao Qihui wrote in China Daily that although the programme had come under fire for its vulgar contents, it still attracted a large number of young viewers.

“For most young Chinese, the programme reflects the crude realities of Chinese society. Today, many women don’t want to marry anyone who doesn’t own a house and men believe that they won’t be respected and sought after by girls unless they are or will be wealthy one day,” he wrote.

Gao added that money-worshipping had become the developing trend of relationships, as shown in a survey by sohu.com that home ownership was a prerequisite for marriage.

“When a woman is looking for her Mr Right, it seems that wealth has become her only criterion. Men who are not wealthy are defined as losers, especially by women.

“The current generation of young Chinese grew up during the era of reform and opening-up, when they were bombarded by slogans on materialism. We have plunged into the pursuit of material success without any regard for moral guidance and simplified the definition of social development as economic achievement.”

Playwright critic Chen Zhigang said many young people were snobbish and worshipped money, cars and houses as they had grown up in a highly developing society with material wealth being the order of the day.

“The show is more than a dating game. It is like a multi-dimensional mirror that reflects social values,” he told China Daily.

Xiang Jianxin, vice-president of Beijing-based dating network company Baihe.com, said the popularity of TV dating programmes reflected a collective anxiety of single people and their families.

They long for marriage and yet they lack a sense of security in love and their other relationships. Television dating programmes should play a role in helping single people to look for love instead of commercialising the shows, he said.

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