Author: jarrahbowley

Jarrah | dog enthusiast | food lover | proud Hufflepuff

Analysing my thoughts on IYATO


A couple of weeks ago I shared my thoughts on experiencing an episode of the Chinese dating show, If You Are The One (IYATO).

When experiencing the show it was difficult to set aside biases. The dating culture depicted on IYATO is completely different to that what I am used to and there are sharp differences that I kept revisiting between Chinese culture and Australian/Western culture. I think when watching IYATO it is difficult to not compare it to what I’m familiar with. I automatically made comparisons between IYATO and dating shows like The Bachelor and Love Island. I also was quick to draw comparisons between the overall culture and expectations that Chinese have for relationships with what is valued in Australia and what I myself value.

It’s also interesting to note why it has become the largest and most-viewed dating show, not only in China, but worldwide its viewing statistics beat any other dating show. In my last post I constantly drew comparisons but also emphasised the humour of the show – it’s bizarre, unusual, blunt and just entertaining. Sure, entertainment is probably the key purpose of the show but I began to wonder about some of the more interesting cultural aspects that lay below the surface.

The way I have reflected on the show I think I will approach the rest of my autoethnography as what Ellis et al. describes as ‘layered accounts’ where there is “a focus on the author’s experience alongside data, abstract analysis, and relevant literature.” (Ellis et al., 2010). Ellis reiterates the importance of reflection to “illustrate new perspectives on personal experience—on epiphanies—by finding and filling a “gap” in existing, related storylines.” (Ellis et al., 2010) The more I’ve reflected on IYATO the predominant epiphany I’ve had is the cultural and social impact of the show, specifically in relation to social constructs of gender. Watching the show it is difficult whether to determine if the show has feminist traits; the women on the show are very outspoken yet the show is very much shaped by inherent Chinese sociocultural norms that are very traditional when it comes to gender.

I’d like to further explore whether it empowers women or perpetuates the patriarchy. IYATO hinges on the patriarchal and heteronormative discourse of love and marriage. Whilst in Western society it’s expected that people get married and have kids it’s not forced upon us to necessarily do these things (anymore). Gender norms are changing. Chinese traditions remain very strong, even in the 21st century, there are certain roles and expectations for people otherwise they are often thought to bring shame and dishonour to their family. In Chinese culture there is a derogatory term ‘sheng nu’ which translates to ‘leftover women’. This refers to the stigma attached to women who remain unmarried beyond 25. Men are also sometimes described as leftover men or ‘shengnan’. Whilst in Australia there is also some pressure to get married, this has decreased significantly in recent times. In my cultural framework, I do not feel these pressures. I’m still only 21 so wouldn’t be considered a ‘leftover woman’ yet, however I’m not in a serious relationship and I’m totally okay with that. I’ve never had any pressure from my parents to get married or date people from a certain background. The show’s producer Gang Wang has said that the show was largely inspired by the ‘leftover women’ phenomenon (Li, 2014). Does the program constantly rely on the social pressure Chinese women feel to find a husband before becoming ‘leftover’?

My positioning is this; I lack very little knowledge of Chinese culture in general, and whilst I have some blanket ideas of the traditions when it comes to relationships and other aspects of Chinese tradition explored on IYATO they are not very well-informed, rather what I’ve gathered from the show and other media that might have touched the topic. The idea of ‘leftover women’ was something I was unfamiliar with until I watched this advert last year. Watching IYATO I was reminded of the emotional video that advertises Shanghai’s marriage market that explores the pressure and shame directed at these leftover women. Whilst the women on IYATO often come across as empowered and strong-willed, I can’t help but think that the show represents the same idea of a ‘marriage market’ for leftover women to meet potential bachelors.

I have found some research that draws on these ideas and will continue to explore in-depth evaluations of the show in relation to social and cultural constructs as well as why its has garnered such a large amount of popularity. The research into Chinese culture will give me a framework to better understand IYATO. Through a combination of both academic sources and analysis of my own experience of viewing the show I will hopefully be able to explore in-depth the social and cultural constructs in China that are perpetuated in If You Are The One.



Ellis, C., Adams, T. and Bochner, A., 2010. Autoethnography: An overview. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, [online] 12(1). Available at: <>

Li, L., 2014. If You Are the One: Dating shows and feminist politics in contemporary China. International Journal of Cultural Studies, 18(5), pp.519-535.

via Analysing my thoughts on IYATO —

Beyond the surface of ‘If You Are The One’

For my autoethnographic project I want to explore the popular Chinese dating show, ‘If You Are The One’. I know others are also exploring it because of its popularity. I want to investigate how it is that If You Are the One (IYATO) became the most-viewed dating show and the social and cultural impact it has had in Asia and even Australia.

I first encountered this show when I was flicking through channels and landed on SBS2. I hovered on the channel long enough to wonder what the hell the show was. My housemate at the time said, “You’ve never heard of this?! It’s amazing.” Since then I’ve watched odd bits and piece of the series. At first I thought it was completely ridiculous, but later became enamoured with the show because of how blunt both the contestants and hosts are. It was completely different to anything I’ve ever seen, that being said I’ve never experienced any other Asian dating or reality TV shows.

Meng Fei is the much-loved host of the show, often affectionately referred to by contestants as Grandpa Meng because of his wise advice. There are then another two co-hosts who give romantic advice and weigh in every once and a while. The basic premise of the show is that there are 24 women that stand at podiums, whilst one bachelor at time comes to the stage and introduces himself. He then shows a series of videos to give the women an insight into his life. In between, the women ask questions and converse with the man. At any point, they are able to turn off their light to show they have no interest in the man. If they all turn off their lights before his turn is over the man leaves without a date, however if all goes well he will hopefully leave with one of the women.

Because the show is shown on SBS I am able to easily access it on SBS On Demand. I just scrolled down and clicked on a recent random episode (season 8 episode 78).

What strikes me as I’m watching IYATO is that it’s set out more like the game shows I’m used to rather than dating shows. With people at podiums and live audiences. Most dating shows in Western culture are filmed in advance, like the Bachelor. The other western dating show that comes to mind is Love Island, a reality TV show I became far too obsessed with that is filmed in real time so the public can vote for their favourite/least favourite couples, kid of like Big Brother. But it’s still filmed somewhere else and not at all like the very straight-forward and simple set up of IYATO. The women enter the show on a catwalk and it reminds me of a beauty pageant.


Chinese traditions come through in the show and it’s really interesting to compare what they expect in relationships in China to what people expect on Western countries. Often what they say can sound rude or sexist, but people are rarely offended. Perhaps this is just Chinese candour  and deep-rooted tradition but these kind of comments make me huff in frustration. I remember one of the first episodes I saw when the man first arrived he said, “My future wife must be beautiful for the sake of our children.” Similarly in this episode the first bachelor says, “Like all men, I hope my girlfriend will be pretty, with a good figure so she can bear children from me.” And “She must be able to cook.” No one flinches, in China it appears this is the norm. The brash candour is not one-sided, the women, when asked as to why they’ve switched off their light will often reply honestly: “I don’t like men with glasses.” “He doesn’t look like he exercises enough.” “He’s not manly enough for me.”

The episode I watched I notice that they poke fun at Americans on multiple occasions. One girl mentions she came second in a hamburger eating contest and won a trip to Hong Kong and Meng Fei (the host) replies that they should have sent her to America. At another point they’re discussing weddings and whether you would invite an ex, at this point Meng Fei says that would be too much trouble because Americans have too many exes.

The second guy that came out was an American that had been living in China for some time. He ended up leaving with a girl who wanted to get married instantly and then have children. Not sure if she was joking but pretty sure she wasn’t.


That’s not the face of a woman that’s joking, right?! Anyway, the man didn’t seem a all phased and they walked into the sunset together out of the show together. Joking aside, the candidate was evidently desperate to be married soon, something which seems to be demanded of Chinese people whilst they’re in the early 20s. Once they reach their mid-to-late 20s the pressure to get married is extreme, as seen by many contestants that come through show. Whilst I’ve often faced the awkward relationship conversations at family gatherings, I’m glad I don’t have to endure the same level of pressure regarding my singledom.

The show explores the cultural aspects of Chinese life, not only those solely relevant to dating. One contestant reveals he has a somewhat strenuous relationship with his father, his father who is in the crowd says that if he praises his son he will become too complacent and that’s why he constantly pushes him down. When Meng Fei encourages him to say something about his son that makes him proud he says his son has a good sense of responsibility. This then results in a discussion on Chinese parenting and one of the girls breaks into tears because her own father has never praised her. The co-hosts say that she should not be sad as it is rare for Chinese parents to praise their children at all. This conversation in particular made me realise the stark contrasts to my own upbringing. My parents constantly praised me and told me they loved me. Encouragement  and approval has never been lacking.

Additionally, I noticed the pressure surrounding finding an appropriate match that seems to be prevalent in Chinese traditional and social constructs. Most candidates will often turn off their light because they don’t think there family would approve.

What I hope to explore in more depth is the cultural impact of this show and why it’s had such extensive popularity in not only China but across the globe including Australia. They claim to have a viewing audience of up to 50million an episode. What?? No doubt that beats the Bachelor by a long shot. Why is it that we’re so enamoured with a show so separate from the reality of our own dating lifestyle. Or perhaps there is something relatable about the show that we don’t notice instantly amongst the different culture. Is it the interest in a different culture? The brutal and hilarious one liners? The individuality of the contestants themselves?


via If You Are The One 

My understanding of autoethnography

Falling into a habit of autoethnography for this subject is probably something I’ll have to get used to. Studying a bachelor of journalism, objectivity has been drilled into me relentlessly. Bias in journalism is frowned upon. The core of journalism is to report on hard facts and deliver the truth to the public. I did one class that focused on narrative journalism, a form of journalism that concentrates on emotive, narrative storytelling of true events. Sometimes the writer will put themselves in the story, reflecting on their own thoughts and experiences to further engage a reader’s understanding. But otherwise, news journalism relies strongly on unedited facts and straight-to-the-point writing structure. I’ve learnt not to write that someone believes something to be true, only to write what they have blatantly stated.

Autoethnography appears to be somewhat more accepting of our own revelations combined with meticulous research to explore a culture.

Autoethnography is an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyze (graphy) personal experience (auto) in order to understand cultural experience (ethno).” – Autoethnography: An Overview (Ellis et al., 2010)

My understanding of autoethnography from Ellis’ account is that its a form of research where the researcher explores their own experiences as a focus of investigation. By sharing the researcher’s personal reflection of a culture they engage the reader. Whilst hardcore journalism may be separate from the autoethnography that Ellis describes I think some of the best journalism uses the process of autoethnography to capture both the factual and emotional aspects of a story, such as documentaries and literary novels. Sometimes the author or narrator places themselves in the storyline, including their thoughts and experiences of what is happening. Often they will have ‘epiphanies’, something which Ellis says are commonplace in autoethnographic research.

An example of this is the documentary series, States of Undress, which follows Hayley Gates as she explores global fashion and beauty standards and their relation to political and social issues such as gender and race. Her personal epiphanies are woven throughout the narrative, creating transformative moments.

Autoethnography allows the researcher to create a link between the reader and the content, further engaging the audience through their own transformative experiences.

Autoethnography can be cleverly used to promote cultural awareness or give voice to an issue or community that previously may not have been heard. However, autoethnohgraphy is often criticised by the social sciences. Ellis writes that, “autoethnography is criticized for either being too artful and not scientific, or too scientific and not sufficiently artful.” As such, many remain skeptical of it. However, as Ellis argues, autoethnography challenges the distinct binary between science and art, believing that research can be both analytical and emotional.

I think autoethnography can be done in keeping with truth, and as such is a powerful form of research that combines emotive storytelling of experiences with analytical examination of a culture. The researcher’s own epiphanies will hopefully cause the audience to reflect on the topic themselves.


Ellis, C., Adams, T. and Bochner, A., 2010. Autoethnography: An overview. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, [online] 12(1). Available at: <;.

via My understanding of autoethnography —


Growing up I was never allowed to watch a lot of TV and the movies we did own on VCR were Disney, Julie Andrews films and the Pippi Longstocking movies thanks to my German mother.  Most of the content (if not all) I consume is western media, so a 1950’s black and white Japanese film was an entirely new experience for me.

I hadn’t seen any Godzilla films and had very limited knowledge on it asides from the fact that it’s some kind of monster. Because I’d never dabbled in any of the Godzilla recreations I couldn’t even conjure up an image of what Godzilla is meant to look like although I’m sure at some point I would have seen a movie poster somewhere. The name ‘Godzilla’ is familiar, but little else is.

As such I didn’t have any idea what to expect of the film. I have so little knowledge of Godzilla I wasn’t even aware the film was originally a Japanese creation, and in my mind I had the assumption that it was a more recent Western creation, when in fact the Japanese film has had over 30 remakes since the original in 1954.

Hesitations aside I was pleasantly surprised that whilst the film was something I would never watch by my own choice as I watched it I did become invested in what was going to happen. So all in all, Godzilla was an interesting viewing experience for me. Jerky transitions, dated effects and bad acting aside (Emiko always looked like she was happy whilst crying/screaming and it threw me considering most of her scenes included her in some level of distress) I was surprised that the movie was something other than what I expected and passed my (somewhat low) expectations.

What I found most interesting, and hadn’t anticipated was the political comments that the film made. The original Godzilla was released in 1954, a time when people were still recovering from the horrific events of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I don’t have extensive knowledge of WWII Japan, asides from what is depicted in other popular movies; most of which are American and portray the Japanese as the enemy. However, early last year I read a short novel titled Hiroshima, a literary journalism piece that recounts the experiences of several Japanese citizens who survived the nuclear bomb in Hiroshima. These personal accounts, as relayed by John Heresy, really confronted me and gave me a whole new insight to what happened in Japan during WWII as a result of nuclear weapons. (A really good read that you can find in the New Yorker if you’re interested). This text gave me a background to the theme of nuclear war that runs throughout Godzilla. I noticed throughout the film they would show the individuals affected, humanising the numbers affected by such disasters. For example, the people in Tokyo on the train discussing the horror of Godzilla and even mentioning having avoided Nagasaki, only later to show the same people on a boat attacked by Godzilla. The focus on WWII and nuclear weapons isn’t something I expected of the film. The anti-nuclear storyline and connection to WWII that ran throughout the film are probably what captured my attention and interest most, seeing the way in which the film expressed the fears at the time through an action flick involving a giant prehistoric creature.

My main reflection is that the film ended up being a lot deeper than I though it would have been. I entirely expected some kind of monster and public panic (which there was) but what I didn’t expect were the underlying messages reflective of the time and events.

via Godzilla — Jarrah Bowley