Money worship magnified in TV dating stings traditional love values

13 June 2010

Liu Weidong, a 24-year-old apprentice lawyer in Nanjing, felt embarrassingly rejected by 24 well-dressed single women in a popular, yet controversial matchmaking reality show.

“I had sincerely hoped to find a nice girlfriend on the stage, but I did not expect those girls to be so ‘money-worshiping’ and blunt,” Liu told Xinhua Saturday, recalling his experience of taking part in the show “If You Are the One” about two months ago.

The prime-time show, aired on Jiangsu Satellite TV three nights a week, features a jury of 24 single women questioning male hopefuls, watching their introductory videos and pressing light buttons to decide whether the men are, in fact, eligible bachelors and can remain on stage.

Liu was dismissed by all the female contestants in the show. He has an above-average monthly income of 5,000 yuan (about 732 U.S.dollars), as he said, lives in a rented house and takes the bus to work on weekdays.

“Now I feel so much pressure because I can’t afford a house or a car. But how could those girls find true love if they only care about money?” Liu said.

Like Liu, tens of thousands of single men and women across the country have applied to participate in a string of popular matchmaking programs in recent months, hoping to find dates or otherwise seek fame.

Programs including “Take Me Out” and “Run For Love” air on leading TV channels. Often filled with unmerciful sarcasm and heated arguments, these shows have attracted millions of viewers and sky rocketed on rating charts since January.

However, some female contestants’ blatant materialism has sparked widespread criticism about money worship among the country’s younger generation.

Ma Nuo, a 22-year-old model from Beijing, has been under fire after she told a jobless man who tried to woo her on stage that she “would rather cry in a BMW (than smile on a bike).”

Another female contestant even claimed that everyone, except for her boyfriend, had to pay 200,000 yuan (29,270 U.S. dollars) in exchange for holding her hand one time.

“Plain money worship and constant visual impact in these programs reflect the social blundering trend,” said Gu Jun, a sociology professor from Shanghai-based Fudan University.

And musical producer Jiang Xiaoyu has bitterly denounced money-worship contestants on the programs. The advocacy of money worship and materialism on TV would bring pressure to vulnerable groups in society, Jiang warned.

Some experts place the blame on television stations, accusing them of ignoring social morality for the sake of higher ratings.

“These programs are full of publicity stunts. Money worship, selfishness and pleasure-seeking among young people are magnified over and over again, challenging our traditional values,” said Wei Jianmei, associate professor in journalism and communications from Hunan Normal University.

Liu Weidong also told Xinhua that his friends had been asked by program planners to reveal something about him that could stir up on-spot debates and spark audience attention.

Liu’s friends then said in a video broadcast played during the show that Liu was fond of plump women, an unexpected embarrassment for Liu who saw several slim female contestants immediately push their light buttons.

“I am not what they said in the show. It’s like I made a deal with the TV station. The show gave me a chance to make a public appearance and I had to make some compromise in return,” Liu said.

In the wake of the public outcry over the vulgar behaviour on matchmaking programs, China’s media watchdog, State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT), issued an angry response this week with a notice strictly regulating these programs.

“Incorrect social and love values such as money worship should not be presented in the shows. Humiliation, verbal and physical attacks and sex-implied vulgar contents should not be allowed,” the notice said.

It also demanded that contestants must use authentic identities and undergo strict screening procedures before participating in matchmaking programs.

As for a group of rich men and overseas returnees showing up on matchmaking programs, the notice suggested program planners invite more people from all walks of life, rather than fill screens with actors, actresses and wealthy people.

TV stations in Jiangsu, Hunan and Zhejiang, which produce the most popular matchmaking programs, have all declared they would abide by SARFT’s notice and pledged to stick to the rules.

Matchmaking programs have been aired for more than ten years in China, where males between ages 20 and 45 are expected to outnumber females by 30 million by the year 2020.

According to an online survey conducted by ifeng.com, a popular news portal, more than half of the respondents said they would continue watching matchmaking programs.

Liu told Xinhua that he still hoped to find a kind-hearted girlfriend, as did other male contestants he had made friends with during the program.

“I am a traditional person and I hope my future wife can pursue other valuable things together with me besides money,” Liu said.

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