Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Monday, September 26, 2011

Enthusiastic nonconformity unwelcome

Like any civic organization that seems independent of Party control, anything that smacks of uncontrolled populism and democracy is decidedly unwelcome in the Peoples Republic.

Popularity May Have Doomed Chinese TV Talent Show
In the end, it was not the overabundance of sequins or the cringe-worthy ballads that doomed “Super Girl,” one of China’s most popular televised talent extravaganzas…

[T]he ban issued by the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television is a bracing reminder of the heavy hand guiding popular culture in China…

Although government officials did not elaborate on the reasons behind the cancellation of “Super Girl,” television executives and cultural critics suggested that the ruling Communist Party was unnerved by the runaway success of the show, whose producers have created a string of American-style reality shows that are more popular than the turgid fare of the state-run broadcaster, CCTV.

Others suggested that the show’s reliance on voting by audience members was dangerously democratic. Such conjecture is not far-fetched: regulators banned text-message voting from viewers in 2007, forcing the show to largely limit audience participation to those inside the cavernous television studio.

Zhan Jiang, a journalism professor at Beijing Foreign Studies University, said the ban reflected the growing chasm between Chinese youths and the conservative bureaucrats who keep a tight leash on the production and dissemination of popular culture. “The old guard still has a very different notion of morality from the younger generation,” Professor Zhan said…

Despite its immense popularity, “Super Girl” went on a three-year hiatus in 2006 after a previous controversy fanned by Liu Zhongde, a former culture minister who led a campaign against the show. In a string of interviews in the state media, Mr. Liu lambasted the program as a threat to traditional Chinese culture and a blight on the nation. “What the market chooses is not necessarily a good thing,” he said at the time. “ ‘Super Girl’ is certainly the choice of the market, but we can’t have working people reveling all day in low culture.”…

But at a time when the Communist Party has been avidly reviving revolutionary mass culture from the Maoist era, some critics say the sassy and startlingly individualistic performers who scored well on “Super Girl” represented something of a threat…

In an online essay published Saturday, one of the show’s judges, Song Shinan, suggested that China’s cultural authorities were unhappy about being cut out of the selection process and threatened by the kind of women who rose to the top. “One thing that has progressed is that ‘idols’ are no longer the product of political needs but of commercial needs,” Mr. Song wrote. “The promotion of ‘role models’ from above is dying. These girls truly represent the voices of our times and are the idols of the people.”…

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