After viewing If You Are the One I was left with many questions and began to dig deep into why the interactions between contestants were so intense and why this show was as popular as it is. Having briefly delved into the numbers in my last post, the sheer number of people watching this show and its popularity demonstrates how interested we are in other people’s relationships. The show is the most viewed dating show in the Chinese speaking world and is produced by the JSBC: Jiangsu Television and began in 2010. As of 2013 it began to air on SBS in Australia in a subtitled version.
Initially the show focused heavily on their financial status and their wealth in terms of material possessions rather than themselves and their lifestyle. This was viewed unfavourably in China and authorities soon stepped in to regulate the show.
While watching the show I found the conversations to be quite direct and to the point. In order to understand this better through Ellis’ autoethnography process I began to look into Chinese dating culture and found that within this culture finding a partner while you are still young is ideal (before 25). However, at the same time dating and relationships are not a great focus while in high school leaving a small time frame where dating is focused on. This means that dating is taken quite seriously along with parental pressures, finding a husband or a wife is the end goal. This explains the intensity of the conversation on the show and why all the contestants are direct and upfront.
In an interview with the show’s host Meng Fei with Lee Lin Chin, he stated that out of the 6000 contestants that have come and gone throughout the years the show has been running, there are only about 40-50 couples and about 300 that are married. So when you break it down, the success rate of the show is definitely not high but it still remains extremely popular. Initially, this baffled me but when you compare this to shows in the West like The Bachelor, it too doesn’t have the best track record, yet we still watch it. Why? Because nosiness is universal, clearly.
In an interview held at Western Sydney University with Meng Fei, he provided interesting insight into the show and its contestants. Meng Fei believes that If You Are the One gives insight into the lives of real Chinese people from different walks of life and their lifestyle, and this is the best way to learn about China as a foreigner. From my own experience of watching If You Are the One I’ve found this to be true as it helps pull apart what those in Asia are looking for not only in relationships but in their life.
Meng Fei gave insight into how the Chinese are taught to say what is correct rather than what they feel or their own opinion. However, this is changing through the younger generation and it can be seen through a show like this as there are more forms of communication and people are more willing to speak their mind. A journal article by Pan Wang discusses the “inventing of traditions’ in a world that is rapidly changing with technology, matching making in China has revolutionized and this in turn has creating new traditions. If You Are the One creates a platform to speak about moral issues that would otherwise not be discussed in China. This has created a gateway into a more modern China that steps away from the traditions that are heavily influential in its culture. Meng Fei also touched on how traditional roles of males and females were also quite prevalent which is demonstrated often on the show and this is an element of Asian culture that has been heavily engrained through a very long period of time.
Whilst I can’t directly relate to the dating culture of China from my own experience having grown up in Australia and being mainly influenced by Western dating culture, I can understand the core values that the contestants are searching for as they don’t differ too much from my own values. The approach the Chinese take is perhaps a more direct on than in Western cultures but when you consider the background its one that works with their existing ideals.
Wang, P 2017, ‘Inventing traditions: television dating shows in the People’s Republic of China’, Media, Culture & Society, vol. 39, no. 4, pp. 504-519