China’s open door policy has not only brought in economic reforms but as well as cultural and social influences from the West. The United States has been one of the biggest role model for China in terms of developing into a first world country. China has acquired from the United States different skills for developing the economy, but along with the inflow of foreign knowledge also comes foreign cultural practices. The McDonald’s to Hollywood blockbusters, it is evident that China has opened up to American culture and mass media. In analyzing the influence of American culture in China, one must take into account the dramatic changes in Chinese television programs over the past decade. The Chinese reality television show Supergirl serves as an example of the American cultural influence and its impact on the Chinese youth. This paper argues that although reality television show such as Supergirl’s unconventional style and democratic voting system may pose a challenge to the Chinese Communist Party’s political position, there are nevertheless positive effects to the development of Chinese youth as well as the country on its way in becoming a globalized world power.
Reality TV in China
Reality television is a form of television program that is non-scripted and involves real people doing different activities on camera. The types of reality shows include game shows, talent search, makeovers, and etc. Although reality television has been around for more than fifty years, it peaked in popularity in the early 2000s. Two reality shows in the United States, American Idol and Survivor, sparked the interest in reality television from household to household. The shows’ popularity not only reached American households, but as well as people from all over the globe. China was not left behind along with other countries in creating spinoffs of the popular talent search reality show American Idol.
China’s reality show in the past consisted mainly of outdoor adventure themes. Reality shows in the West that involved prying into someone’s privacy was not favored by Chinese producers due to cultural differences. Chinese producers believed that by pushing contestants to their limit through outdoor adventure games would allow those who do not like to express themselves to reveal their true emotions and feelings. The reality shows became more personal when they started to focus on ordinary people’s lives through a narrative, storytelling approach. Shows like Supergirl came onto the screen in the early 2000’s in response to the influence of Western reality television.
Supergirl is a Chinese talent search reality show produced by Hunan Satellite Television. The show is inspired by the American talent search show American Idol. It holds auditions in five regions of the country for girls who like to sing and showcase their talent. The contestants eventually narrow down to the top three, who will be named the most talented singers in the country. The filming begins during the mass audition and continues until the top three finalists are crowned. Much like American reality television, the camera follows the contestants everywhere, watching their every move. The top contestants all live in the same house, and the camera follows them from sunrise to sundown, allowing the audience to better understand each girl. Another aspect that is copied from the American show is the voting process. Chinese audiences for the first time could interact with a television program through a democratic voting process using SMS. The contestants with the lowest number of votes each week would face off in PK, short for player kill, and the loser will be eliminated each week. Judges were selected from different parts of the country with different backgrounds and experiences in the entertainment industry, much like those on American Idol. The 2005 season attracted more than 150,000 contestants. The show’s...