Negotiating love and life on Fei Cheng Wu Rao/If You Are The One – (1) Introduction

If you have not heard of Fei Cheng Wu Rao (非诚勿扰) you probably live outside of East Asia and Australia. If you live within East Asia and Australia and have not heard of it, you probably live under a rock. The show is also dubbed ‘If You Are The One’ in Australia where it has the largest viewership (read: cult following, seriously) outside Asia. (Author’s note: I do not live under a rock + belong to that cult following.)

Owned by Jiangsu Satellite Television, FCWR is currently China’s most watched reality dating show. If you have an Australian VPN, episodes aired on SBS2 may be accessed online via SBS On Demand, although they are only up to season 5 (2012) at the moment.

In a nutshell, male contestants take turns to stand before 24 women (think: reverse ‘The Bachelor’) who assess the men with honest, blunt, and cutting questions/quips based on first impressions – and trust me when I say it is all gold. Three short videos (referred to as ‘VCR’s on the show) also feature the men’s personal life, relationship history, goals and aspirations, and comments from family and friends. The women indicate their interest or rejection with a built-in light on their individual podiums – blue gooood, pink baaaad. (Also, a really loud and depressing ‘rejection’ beep is played every time a woman switches her light from blue to pink.)

That’s about all from me; an idiot-proof guide exists on Wikipedia; a more succinct take is available on about.com; historical origins to a similar Australian game show is recounted on crikey.com. Plus, several of the women very quickly spiral into (micro)celebrity status overnight.

I’ve plough through much of the interwebs (okay, mostly Google) and uncovered two of my favourite recounts from both sides of the podium. Daniel (male contestant) is a ‘foreigner’ who lives and works in China; he successfully walked home with a date from the show and has written a Foreigner’s Guide. Coco Ma (female contender) is an academic who works in the media industry, and “went undercover” on the show. She was on FCWR for six episodes and wrote about the experience/the backstage on the Asian Creative Transformations site, run by Professor Michael Keane at Queensland University of Technology. The live tweets from the audience on #ifyouaretheone and #feichengwurao are usually the best commentary/brainfarts.

On a flight three weeks back, I downloaded about 40 articles (newspapers, blogposts, academic journals) on FCWR to tide me through 5.5 hours, and ended up falling into a black hole of intrigue and wonder. I want to write about the series analytically some day in the future, post-thesis submission (this list is growing soooo long).

Just yesterday, I chanced upon this treasure trove of a Tumblr, with an archive of screen grabs from the latest episodes. It is titled ‘Commemorative Fashion Shoes’ after one of the prizes that the women may receive when they are successfully paired with a male contestant. The owner of the Tumblr has very kindly given me permission to use his screen grabs for this series of blogposts.

I daren’t count myself as a Media Scholar, but this tongue-in-cheek coding follows after my academic interest on gender on the web.

Several scholars have already delved into critical analyses of FCWR. Here are a notable few (alphabetized):

– Du, Zhiwen (2013) ‘The relationships between product placement in recreational TV programmes and mass consumption: A case study of “If you are the one”’ Master’s Thesis submitted to the Department of Informatics and Media, Uppsala University

– [event] Han. Jing (2014) ‘Transformation of a Chinese Dating Show “If You Are the One” for the Australian Audience’ UNSW Interpreting & Translation Seminar, 26 Aug 14

– Hu, Xuelei et al. (2013) ‘Mining Human Attractiveness from Chinese Dating Game Show If You are the One’ 2013 International Conference on Service Science pp.271-276.

– Li, Luzhou (2014) ‘If You Are the One: Dating shows and feminist politics in contemporary China’ International Journal of Cultural Studies pp.1-7.

– Luo, Wei & Zhen Sun (2014) ‘Are You the One? China’s TV Dating Shows and the Sheng Nü’s Predicament’ Feminist Media Studies pp.1-18.

And I? I shall be attempting to loosely thematize some discursive negotiations of love and life based on season 5 of FCWR – mostly out of sheer intrigue and interest. Stay tuned for a series of nine blogposts (including this introduction) to come over the next few weeks. They will largely be themed around:

1) Introduction

2) The physical

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3) The body specific

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4) Demographical compatibility

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5) Family life

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6) Self-identity

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7) Gendered imaginaries

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8) Personal interests and abstract metaphors

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and 9) Existential navigations

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Are you fan/hater/ambivalent consumer of FCWR? What do you think of the show? Beep me! Chat soon!

Read other posts in this series here:

(1) Introduction
(2) The physical
(3) The body specific
(4) Demographical compatibility
(5) Family life
(6) Self-identity
(7) Gendered imaginaries
(8) Personal interests and abstract metaphors
(9) Existential navigations

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