I decided to focus on the Chinese reality dating show, If You Are the One for my autoethnographic research. I accessed the latest available episode (Season 8, episode 92) in Australia via the SBS on demand website, as I missed the live one on TV. I’ve seen the show a few times before, but having not watched it for some time, I thought it would be a great idea to do so. For me, If You Are the One is a hilarious reality dating show that applies game show aspects to finding a partner. The first thing I notice as I watch this episode is the music, the intro I thought was very corny, and “gameshowy”, especially with an audience, clapping along the intro. The male contestants are dropped down very dramatically on a platform to the most hilarious song “Can You Feel It”, whenever I think of the show I think of this song. The contestant introduces themselves followed by several videos about themselves, while in-between the female contestants ask questions. Again, hilarious. The videos are broken up into different categories: basic info, love experience and friend’s comments; with the corresponding sections of the show: first impressions, judgement call and final decision. The love experience section would have to be a favourite of mine, as it seems no matter the contestant they have some kind of eventful relationship history, the shots of the male contestant staring longingly into the distant is a definite highlight here. Another favourite aspect of this show I found is the concept of the lights on/ lights off (each of the female contestants stand at a podium, beginning with their light on, then whenever they like they can turn it off, symbolising they don’t like the guy), this is accompanied by a dramatic sound, I always find this really funny.
Throughout the episode, I found some of the comments the male contestants make to be sort of sexist and ‘traditional’, like: “girls should be reserved”, this is parallel with more traditional values on relationships, compared to what I’m used to seeing especially on TV. All of the contestants speak very dramatically and poetically when they speak of their feelings: “it was my first love, it died a tragic death”, I wonder if this is a cultural thing or a translation thing. Same goes with many of the funny comments they all make, like: “my impression was that she was healthy”, do I find it funny just because of the translation? While watching I began thinking about the concept of the show, are they paid to go on? Are they in it for their five minutes of fame? Are they in it for the Maldives holiday prize at the end? Or are they really looking for ‘love’?
In this episode, there are 3 different male contestants, two of the three were successful in finding a girl. While watching, I found it quite difficult to stay focussed watching the show and write notes at the same time, though I was able to pause the show as need be. I did initially think about live tweeting while watching, but I thought it might be pointless considering its not actually ‘live’. So instead I decided to take detailed notes. I also noticed while watching that an advert popped up at the bottom telling viewers to get involved on twitter through the hashtag #ifyouaretheone, something I would have like to do had I been watching live. The comments and banter of the hosts is hilarious. Another thing I found interesting was how the male contestants have to give a lot of details and information about themselves, whereas the female contestants are almost there based on their looks, as apart from a few questions, they don’t get that much of an opportunity to talk. Interesting aspect of gender roles. I also wonder what the show would be like if the roles were reversed here? At this point I realise this particular episode features only Japanese male contenders, I wonder if this is very different from other nationalities in other episodes. The host jokes about how all the Japanese men speak in the same monotone voice, different to contestants from other countries, including Australia. I wasn’t aware prior to watching that Australians even went on If You Are the One!
Towards the end of each male contestants turn on the show they get final choice of which girls have stayed for them. I found the final part very entertaining when the guy asked the girls to name which male body parts they found sexiest. Some of the women say nose?!? Different ideas of what’s typically sexy in Asia perhaps? I also noted that in the final credits the email addresses of each male contestant are displayed on screen, just in case you want to get in touch…
Overall, I really enjoyed my experience watching If You Are the One. I find it highly entertaining and think that it raises several cultural points, that will be really interesting to research more on for the next blog post.
SBS (2017). If You Are the One – Season 8 Episode 92. Available at: https://www.sbs.com.au/ondemand/video/1018640963904/if-you-are-the-one [Accessed Aug. 2017].
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I really enjoyed reading your autoethnographic experience with ‘If You Are the One’, I honestly felt, as though I was watching the show myself, your recount was very detailed. Its as though after reading about your experience, you have noticed all the details that I would have overlooked and just found as strange. I was really impressed with the detail that you put into the research, the narrative was clear and linear, and has effectively demonstrated autoethnography. In truth, it has taught me more about autoethnography narrative research and writing about experiences.
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Like you, I’ve dabbled in viewing ‘If You Are the One.’ What I found really interesting about your blog is that you were able to look beyond the program simply being ‘that kooky Chinese dating show’ and raise some insightful questions that really got me thinking about dating in China. Based on my (relatively shallow) knowledge about the politics and formalities associated with Chinese dating, part of me can’t help but feel that ‘If You Are the One’ is simply a more fun(?) version of the traditional matchmaking process in China. What are your thoughts on this? I’m really looking forward to reading your future blog posts about this experience!
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I’m so glad you chose this as your topic! I’ve seen the show once or twice myself and it’s absolutely hilarious. I particularly enjoyed your analysis of the portrayal of humour in the show. Is it actually intended to be funny and superficial? Or is the translation poor? It could be a combination of both. Here’s a source which you might find useful in the future (http://culturesconnection.com/6-translation-problems/). It looks at common problems in translating content between languages. It lists how issues can occur and ends with the cultural implication of this.
Several things stood out to me in your post;
1. You accessed it online, having missed the ‘live’ viewing on SBS. Do the producers of that show consider the possibility of a young, Australian student viewing their content online? I doubt it, they’re aiming their show at a very specific Chinese audience. What, do you think, are the implications of this? What kind of message about Chinese culture is being spread across the globe and is this message an accurate reflection of Chinese dating culture?
2. The email addresses of the males are listed at the end of the program. This is crazy! For the digital age, an email account is an odd way to set up a booty call (for me, anyway!). Interestingly, I’ve come across this before. I read some Reddit dating advice which recommended email above texting and instant messaging platforms. Weird.
Awesome post! I look forward to following the rest of your research.
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I absolutely love If You Are The One and I think you have absolutely nailed the show on the head. I enjoyed how you spoke about some of the sexist comments that the contestants make, it’s really interesting to see the different ideals that people desire in different cultures and this show really highlights this. I also liked how you questioned what the show would be like if it were female contestants, I think it would be approached more sensitively? Great first autoethnography piece, I look forward to reading the follow up.
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