Yesterday, a reader gave me a heads-up on a Washington Post article titled "TV matchmaking show runs afoul of China's morality campaign" by Keith B. Richburg, which came 20 days after I wrote about the same subject in this space. It does not add much new, but other than a couple of minor inaccuracies (for example the half-misquote “rather cry in a BMW than ride a bicycle while laughing”), the writing is alright.
I don't know if the author knows Chinese, or if he has watched the show himself, but since his report came so much later, it would have been more informative if he included updates about the show after the censorship. Because he didn't, I'll take the opportunity to tell you about a few of the most obvious changes.
One is that the program ("If you are not sincere" or "If you are the one," whichever way you like to call it) now has a Party School teacher, a middle-aged woman, sitting on the stage, next to the popular commentator Le Jia. Whether this was government imposed, or the program's way to add protection, I don't know (it is for Keith Richburg to find out :-)). Her presence reminds me of the "model Beijing operas" during the Cultural Revolution – in those there was often a female Party representative who could do nothing wrong. Not surprisingly, the show’s Party School teacher dresses sedately in a politically correct way. And she does not display the emotional personality that Le Jia does. To her credit, her words so far have not been as doctrinaire as I had expected, but they haven’t offered much insight either. With her sitting there, I'm sure all the women guests will behave themselves, and hide some of their true sides. Too bad the contestants still dress multifariously – I wonder why the government has not required them to wear the same outfit, for example only blue or green like we did during the Cultural Revolution.
Another change is that now none of the male guests is allowed to state his income. How does this stop the "mammonism" repeatedly scolded about in the government instructions? The contestants avoid using the word "money," but not "cars" or "houses." I'm afraid the government will have to issue another set of instructions to ban those words as well.
Yet another change is that more hero-like male guests are appearing on the stage. A selfless professional rescuer who kept saying "It is my happiness to rescue people and state property" (he failed to take away his choice woman), and a Canton policeman coming to help the pretty single-mother (whose bad luck with the male guests had made Le Jia cry), for example. Both professions appeared for the first time, Meng Fei announced.
The government ordered the exclusion of actors and disallowed any scripted interactions in matchmaking shows. But the most noticeable consequence of the new rules seems to be that everyone must do some acting now. "If you are not sincere" has lost some of the spontaneity it had before.