In my last blog post I began my autoethnographic research journey, engaging with the Chinese television show If You Are The One and recording a narrative of my personal experience in viewing an episode. After this initial phase of the autoethnographic methodology it is now imperative to analyse my own experience and selectively write about the epiphanies present in my initial account (Elis et al, 2011). The overall aim of this research is to utilise this personal experience to outline aspects of cultural experience, making characteristics of a culture familiar for insiders and outsiders (Elis, et al, 2011). It is clear from first post, that I experienced several epiphanies surrounding the show, and the culture, both in China and Australia.
Here is a little reminder of what the show is all about:
<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/167216140″>19 Reasons to Love – If You Are The One</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/goldenduck”>Golden Duck</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>
Firstly, my means of access to a foreign cultural product. I engaged with If You Are The One via the SBS on demand streaming service online in Australia, noting that I did so because I would miss the airing of it on TV. According to West, If You Are The One has a domestic audience of 50 million, and an Australian audience of 82,000 (West, 2015). The show was produced by JSTV and debuted on 15 January 2010 (Wang, 2017) in China and began airing in Australia shortly thereafter. After researching some more, I realised how popular the show has really become in Australia, with an avid twitter following, several groups, accounts and websites dedicated to it, and there even being special ‘Aussie’ episodes airing that feature Chinese Australian contestants. SBS has clearly noticed this popularity and accommodate for it by airing the show several times a week on its Viceland channel. SBS’s website claims that “SBS makes a unique contribution to the development of harmony and understanding in Australia by connecting cultures, subcultures, beliefs, generations, interest groups and language communities” (SBS.com.au, 2017). The SBS channels facilitate access and engagement to different cultures, existing as a platform for cultural experience.
In line with my access to the show, we can also analyse the way I consumed the show. While I really enjoyed viewing the show, I noticed that my consumption habits were significantly different to the other reality television I consume. As a big fan of reality television, I regularly watch reality dating shows like The Bachelor Australia, often becoming seriously invested (maybe too much so), as well as following along on social media, reading articles and tweets weekly. My viewing habits while watching If You Are The One were significantly different. This could potentially be due to the fact I’m still new to the show, only having seen it a few times before, though it seems more likely due to the nature of the show; the reality television I usually consume is largely westernised and exists over extended periods of time by seasons, while If You Are The One is shorter and more game show like, with a change in contestants most episodes. The exposure to this type of dating reality television broadened my perspective of what dating on ‘reality television’ looks like, showing alternative relationships and alternative means of ‘finding love’, as opposed to the stock standard western versions I am used to.
Another obvious point to take from my first account is the comedy evident in the show. I frequently referred to the humorous qualities, finding the show very funny the whole way through. I did ask whether this was due to translation issues, which is a possibility; translation on SBS airing is done by SBS professional translators, but there could be potential discrepancies as with all translating. Though by looking into any social media surrounding If You Are The One it becomes clear that humor is imminent. Here are a few little hilarious nuggets…
An interesting point to note here is a lot of the humor on the show comes from the brutal honesty of the contestants saying whatever they please, particularly in first impressions. After further research into the shows humor, I discovered there were significant changes made to the show. In 2011, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television issued a set of standards in attempts to ‘clean up the screen’, with If You Are The One a prime target due many of its commentaries rubbing the Chinese government up the wrong way (Sun, 2014). Being criticised for promoting materialistic and selfish values, the show was forced to lift its standards or face suspension (Sun, 2014). As a result, the show proceeded to include a broader range of social classes, and encouraged contestants to be ‘nicer’ overall. Despite this the show still remains hilarious, with contestants letting fly their funny commentaries and jokes.
Which brings me to my next major epiphany regarding Chinese values. If You Are The One emerged at a time when China’s values were changing. Traditionally, parents had the ultimate power in arranging their child’s marriage, based on Confucian ideologies in familial peace and hierarchical relationships between old and young (Wang.2017). However with a growing modern society, China’s younger generations are creating new traditions, merging old and new, especially in terms of dating and marriage. This is evident in If You Are The One through many of the comments made by contestants (which I mention in my first post), like “girls should be reserved”. This highlights that merge between traditional and modern. As more modern values present include the emphasis on ‘love experience’. As Wang explains, “being experienced…is now acceptable to both male and female contestants…they believe that those who have had a prior love experience are better equipped to cope in a new relationship” (Wang, 2017). The idea of the women being able to reject or approve of the male contestant also challenges more traditional male dominated power dynamics in romantic relationships (Wang, 2017), also many of the female contestants are successful independent career women, showing the shift from male reliance, and reliance on a husband to more independence.
Overall Ellis et al’s methodology of autoethnography has challenged my ideas of researching another culture. As I reflect on my autoethnographic journey, it is clear that my study and analysis into If You Are The One as a participant observer has allowed me to better understand the culture, as a cultural outsider (Elis et al, 2011). For me, the show will remain a loved source of entertainment, especially for when I get sick of The Bachelor and their corny representations of romance and ‘reality’. If You Are The One tells it like it is, there is no mucking around. They present what they have and you either like it or you don’t, there’s no long months showcasing the potentials here. As Wang explains the show contrasts traditional, anti-traditional and modern ideas and values (Wang, 2017), offering a glimpse into China’s cultural identity in today’s world. Behind its comedic exterior, the show embodies Chinese culture and allows a foreign audience an insight and understanding of another culture.
Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1. Available at: http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095
Cultures Connection. (2017). 6 Translation Problems. [online] Available at: http://culturesconnection.com/6-translation-problems/ [Accessed Sep. 2017].
Sbs.com.au. (2017). Our Story : SBS Corporate. [online] Available at: http://www.sbs.com.au/aboutus/our-story/ [Accessed Sep. 2017].
Sbs.com.au. (2017). SBS – Special Broadcasting Service. [online] Available at: http://www.sbs.com.au/article/107831/what-sbs-tells-me-about-australia [Accessed Sep. 2017].
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].
SBS Australia (2016). 19 Reasons to Love – If You Are The One. Available at: https://vimeo.com/167216140 [Accessed Sep. 2017].
Sun, W 2014, ‘If You Are the One: Dating shows, reality TV, and the politics of the personal in urban China’, Australian Review Of Public Affairs: Digest, p. 2, Political Science Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 11 September 2017.
Wang, P 2017, ‘Inventing traditions: television dating shows in the People’s Republic of China’, Media, Culture & Society, 39, 4, pp. 504-519, SocINDEX with Full Text, EBSCOhost, viewed 11 September 2017.
West, P. (2015). If You Are The One and The Bachelor know how to get to us: we all fear dying alone. [online] The Conversation. Available at: https://theconversation.com/if-you-are-the-one-and-the-bachelor-know-how-to-get-to-us-we-all-fear-dying-alone-49053 [Accessed Sep. 2017].