The brutal and hilarious world of Asian dating

Most of you reading this will know about television shows such as The Bachelor and X-Factor. Some of you might even be huge fans, with your Foxtel IQ memory being used up by countless hours of women crying over one man and people who can’t possibly think their talented making a fool of themselves on national television.

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Personally, I’ve never been a huge fan of dating and talent shows, but my god has that changed. I have recently been made aware of the single greatest dating show I’ve ever seen. It’s called If You Are The One and it’s so great. Brutal, full of surprises and so opposite to every Western dating norm that I am used to, If You Are The One is a cultural phenomenon. It has bridged an understanding of Chinese dating and partner types through the use of entertainment, but the real understanding comes from my own experiences: the fact that some of the dating standards are so strange and so funny to me produces a strong juxtaposition between Australia and Asia and allows me to understand the culture so much more – a direct feature of autoethnography.

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To describe the show quickly, a lone male suitor has to impress a panel of 24 single women (The Bachelor), who register their interest or disinterest through the use of podium lights (X-Factor). Throughout the show, the man introduces himself through pre-filmed footage and short performances of their talents. If the man and woman choose each other, then they win a trip to the Aegean Sea – wild. But the real lessons and entertainment comes from the reasons the women don’t choose the man, usually for purposes such as their family would disapprove of they are not ready to father children immediately.

My initial encounter with this Chinese dating came a few weeks ago during my first viewing of the show, from which my spiralling obsession has grown. I recorded a few observations during this first episode:

  • Huge live audience with lots of applause
  • All the 24 girls are beautiful and very thin – much like Australian dating shows.
  • The show uses purely English music – empowering as the man walks on, sad music if he walks off alone
  • Win prizes if every girl turns light on. If no one turns on light, they get another chance with audience members who are interested.
  • First impressions: turn lights on if they like him. Purely based on looks (Tinder).
  • Women makes comments like “You’ll be fun to marry”
  • The men and women perform things to impress each other: breaking dancing, singing jazz dancing and yoga – maybe the funniest thing I might have ever seen
  • Seems like a talent show and dating show mixed into one
  • Man shows introductory videos: one of them is about past relationships: re-enacted videos of the lovers together: seems so odd for the new women to want to see that. Man describes why the relationship ended – usually things like careers not matching or man not ready for marriage or children (this usually means many women turn their lights off)
  • So brutal when the countdown from 24 women goes further and further down (written largely on the screen)
  • The participants seem much more picky than Australian dating shows. Consider deeper things than just personality and looks
  • Internal thought: “50 minute episodes and 4 people find a lover or not- this is so much fucking better than an entire season of the Bachelorette. No drama and no tears!!!”
  • One woman sang to show her feelings – ‘Can’t take my eyes off of you’ – why an English song?
  • Most men speak of the expectations to find a wife and have children to keep family happy and leave a legacy
  • One couple chose each other and straight away decided by what age they would have children together. When choose each other, straight away choose when to have kids by
  • Feels like such a weird blend between English and Chinese. The music and show really don’t mix together well

As such, my individual research project aims to understand Asia, in particular Chinese dating, through my own experiences, considering how my own cultural biases and experiences form my opinions. “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)” (Ellis et al. 2011). In this way, the researcher makes themselves the subject of research by using their thoughts and observations. So, by describing and analysing my personal experience of dating and dating shows I will produce research into the cultural experience of Chinese love.

I plan to continue watching more Chinese dating shows (hell yeah), and then produce a digital artefact which compares or relates what I am used to (Western dating) with the norms of Asian dating. I am still tossing up with the form my project will take – however, I am sure I will take notes during the dating shows of anything that seems different to what I am accustomed to. I will then use this information to create a project which clearly highlights the differences in culture, perhaps using reasons that people in Wollongong have decided not to date someone.
Autoethnographic research will allow an insight into Asian culture that regular research would not – application to real life situations. Hopefully, this form of research will produce an interesting, humourous project that bridges an understanding and connection between Australia and Asia.

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