Among the more well-known thought experiments is “If you could only save one person…?” In today’s China, however, it is reality TV that is leading way with its new incarnation, “Life ranking; children, parents, spouse or yourself”, as the nation attempts to come to grips with values incomprehensible a generation ago.
“Leftover Ladies”, a social group in China that is highly educated and independent but that remains single, is constantly under the pressure of their families and even society as a whole. Recently, domestic reality shows, such as “My Bachelor Daughter” and “Meeting Mr. Right”, have been exposing the lives of leftover celebrities, in the process themselves becoming a touch paper for public opinion.
Almost as soon as the show Meeting Mr. Right debuted, it topped online ratings and became a big hit on Weibo. While revealing celebrities’ private lives and discussing their life values, specifically marriage, unlike previous reality shows, on Meeting Mr. Right guests’ fathers are invited to the TV studios to watch their daughters; their reactions recorded while they discuss relationships and marriage.
The five chosen celebrities represent leftover ladies in different ways. Wu Xin, a 36-year-old hostess on Hunan TV, has found herself under the brightest spotlight, in private considered as a kind of female “otaku”; lying on the sofa enjoying cosmetic therapy and being home alone.
In the show, Wu cried with sorrow, complaining of her reality. If she did marry and leave her job for a year and a half, could she still return to her original work again? Such anxieties about work and self confidence are the very pains that every young person today is experiencing. As the audience sees reflections of their own life problems, thus the show has more resonance.
Meeting Mr. Right also sheds light on the contrasts in marriage values between parents and children. The huge gap between the old days’ thought and new individualism from the younger generation is revealed vividly; fathers describing on screen their daughter’s bachelor life as “lonely and worrying”. Upon their appearance on the show, actress Jiao Junyan’s father said, “If my daughter could marry early, I won’t have anything to regret for my life”.
Never far from the spotlight, Jiao then talked with her friend and Internet sensation, Papi Jiang, discussing life ranking. “Me myself goes first, then spouse, children and parents”, said Papi, explaining that, “We need to learn to stay alone first, then our spouse will keep us company for the rest of our life, though for children and parents, we can only keep them for a short period of time”. Back on Meeting Mr. Right, the doting fathers all agreed on the contrary; to rank children first.
With parents reckoning that seeing their children married is a way of realising their own life values, so they pile on the pressure. The host of Meeting Mr. Right certainly knows how to create reality TV’s perfect storm, stating, “If parents can consider themselves first, the younger generation will be much more relieved”.