Supergirl = Supercrap

30 Aug 2005

So there’s this show called 超级女声 which the Chinese abbreviate to 超女 and most people call “Supergirl” in English. (Danwei.org, on the other hand, calls it Super Voice Girls.) The show is a lot like American idol. This season it has been immensely popular all over mainland China. Viewers can vote for their favorites by text messaging with their cell phones. This past Friday was the final installment. A huge proportion of China’s TV-watching masses were tuned in.

Inspired by Micah’s entries, I thought it might be a good thing to watch. It couldn’t hurt my cultural understanding of China to watch something that so many Chinese folk were going gaga over. So I suggested to my girlfriend that we watch it. To my surprise, she hadn’t seen a single episode, but she agreed to watch it with me. We decided to watch it at her place with her parents, since they were into it.

Friday morning she asked that I also bring over the PS2. She said we could play video games first, then watch Supergirl. I agreed to that. So I came over with the PS2 around 5pm and we were soon very engaged in a cool Japanese fantasy game called Ico, taking turns playing it.

Soon it was dinner time. We ate, and then went back to the game.

When 8:30 rolled around, my girlfriend didn’t want to quit playing the video game to watch Supergirl. I didn’t really, either, since we were close to beating Ico and I didn’t want to miss the end. Supergirl ran something like 2 1/2 hours, so we decided to play for a while longer. As her parents started watching in the other room, the sounds of cliche, over-played songs started coming out of the other room.

More time passed, and the show was almost over. I didn’t want to miss the grand finale, at least, plus we had gotten stuck on this one part of Ico. So I asked my girlfriend if she was going to watch Supergirl or not. Her response:

> No, I’m really not interested. What’s so special about that show? There have been a million other shows like it, and they’re all the same. *I* can sing as well as some of those girls! Sorry, I’ll pass.

So I caught the tail end, and she didn’t watch any of it. To my surprise, the cute one got the least votes, and I thought she sang the best. The worst singer won. And it wasn’t very interesting watching.

My girlfriend made a good point: there really wasn’t anything unique or revolutionary about the show. It was actually in its second season, and received little attention its first season. Why was it so popular? I wanted to watch it to find out what all the hype was all about, but I think I should have just followed my girlfriend’s lead. She’s pretty smart.

So then we beat Ico. Cool game.

The next day my girlfriend invited 9 friends, male and female (all Chinese), over to my place for a little party. I asked them how many of them watched the final episode of Supergirl. They all did.

I think my girlfriend is the only Chinese person I know that didn’t watch a single episode. She wanted to play PS2 instead. She’s pretty damn cool.

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John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.

Comments

  1. You should see some of the “reality” shows that get foisted on the American public lately.

  2. hehe such a cool girlfriend.
    I’m sorry i missed the whole Supergirl thing. I didn’t know that show was popular . I didn’t hear anything about it two months ago when i was still in SH and now when I’m going back,it’s over already. Would have liked to see just how crappy it was.

  3. Aline,

    To be honest, I didn’t really catch most of it. But I heard what songs they were singing, and I saw the end. The hosts were super annoying.

  4. She prefers PS2 and doesn’t like Super Girl? Marry this woman right away!

  5. Renderman Says: August 30, 2005 at 2:44 pm

    超级女声已经结束了。喜欢哪个呢?

    [Supergirl is over now. Which one did you like?]

  6. Renderman,

    我没怎么看,所以没有喜欢的。我只能说我觉得那个可爱点的唱得最好。而且我不太喜欢另外两个的“中性”样子。

    [I didn’t really watch it, so I don’t really like any of them. I’ll just say that I thought the cute one sang the best. Plus I don’t really like the “neutral” look sported by the other two.]

  7. Ha, well, shows like this are aiming for massive general public. Like anything else, general massive public like to follow, do, buy, watch…etc what all others like (aka trendy)coz its safe. I have never watched either American Idol or Supergirl, and I knew about William Hung a year later from a chain email video clip. Therefore, many of my friends (esp the ones from Hong Kong) found me retarded on their “current affairs”… But not too retarded this time, I heard about Supergirl from a Chinese friend who also told me that this show started a lesbian trend. Heard that the top 2 winners are supposed to be “super hot” in many girls’ eyes (ah, so as F4, therefore, I have no comment and don’t know what to comment without feeling the need to investigate). But I learn what is “T” and what is “P” though! I feel I m catching up! hahahhaha

  8. Personally, I don’t like this show either. But my wife loved it and followed all episodes. It is Ok that you and your girlfriend had more fun in playing PS2 game. But I don’t think it is appropriate to use the title like Supergirl=Supercrap. It is a little bit offensive to Chinese people. Especially, you only watched a small part of final episode to make such judgment. There are thousands Chinese people enjoyed the show and actively participated. Please show some respect to them, though most of them won’t be able to read your English blog.

  9. Xicheng,

    I’m not a journalist. I’m a blogger, and I express opinions without solid basis at times. I’m afraid the Chinese people are just going to have to deal with my rash judgment of this particular TV show.

    Also, perhaps I am wrong, but I suspect you may be unaware of the range of meaning of the word crap. Check out the Urban Dictionary definition #16.

  10. she does sound pretty cool 😀
    Ico is awesome , back when I first beat it , it was one of my favourite games .

  11. Da Xiangchang Says: August 31, 2005 at 7:37 am

    I’ve never see Supergirl, but if it’s anything like American Idol, it’s the definition of crap. What other reality shows are there in China? The ones I watch stateside are the cops shows; you know, where a cop car chases a Porche with the Porsche eventually flipping over, and the deadpan narrator saying, “Remember: crime never pays.” There’s this channel in America called Spike TV that deals ONLY with guy stuff: fights, explosions, car chases, etc. I LOVE IT. Recently, they had an hour-long broadcast full of real fights caught on camera. The funniest one was this surveillance camera in this Chinese-run liquor stores. A guy tries to rob a Chinese woman, and her son came out of nowhere and knocked the robber off his feet with one punch. Marvelous. Balance the stupid TV shows with intellectual endeavors like studying Mandarin or reading Confucius’s Analects, and you’ll be alright.

  12. for the record, many Chinese people think superbabe is crap 🙂 though dont u think we should give this crap some credit even just for its turning cctv into total shame (ratings-wise)?
    btw, today is blogDay2005, to join the merry mass, I followed the blogDay rule (yeah i know, childish:) and linked to u on my own blog. Just let you know and hope u wont mind:) happy blogging.

  13. Dude, I saw the last episode two and I was so f’ing pissed. The girl who one was awful. She was ugly and she couldn’t sing. Her voice was deeper than mind and she had a f’ing half octive range. Plus she had no stage presence. When she did that latin song she didn’t even get the dince moves right.

    The second place girl was alright she had a better voice than the other girl but she looked scared on stage the whole time. The third place girl was by far the best singer and she had stage presence. I’ll go as far as to say that the thrid place girl had the best voice of any chinese popstarI’ve ever heard. She is like the chinese elvis presely, a cute little girl with a fat black woman’s voice.

    And what was up with the two contests looking like boys and having deep voices? I didn’t know the chinese public was such a fan of butch girls.

    Goddamn it pisses me off just thinking about it again. 超级女声, you have destroyed my faith in Chinese democracy.

  14. You are right that I don’t know the full range of meaning of the word. My understanding is based on your entry context and Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Anyway, thanks for the link. At least, I have learned something new.

  15. I didn’t catch any single episode either. Not interested at all.

  16. Only the olds and the young girls may fall into it. The shows are nonsense, very stupid!

  17. scrappenthal Says: September 2, 2005 at 1:21 pm

    I think alf is onto something there. This is a corruption of good ol’ Chinese democracy. Soon it will spread to the political system, as these ruffians will feel they can subvert the system. Next thing you know, we’ll hear about people voting in multiple poll booths. And then it will be corrupt officials buying votes. Then the Chinese political system will only be a free-for-all system of corruption and black poilticking, where only the highest bidder wins. Who would have thought the day when the sordid values of the US would creep into the free society of China???

  18. Hey check it out. The NY Times is catching on to the Supergirl fad too. And they agree that the winner you yi din diar chou:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/04/weekinreview/04yard.html

  19. 夏高林(Sam) Says: September 6, 2005 at 2:24 am

    Something to be noted is that this is the first time a show like this has appeared in China. After all, CCTV, China’s state television company, usually decides who the stars are. They usually show plastic-looking pretty people who can smile and act cute but don’t seem very human on TV. This show was created by an independent television company in Hunan Provence (funded by a dairy company o.O). The whole point of the show is that you get to vote for the winner. VOTE. Remember how often people get to vote in the People’s Republic of China, and you’ll understand why the show is such a huge hit. Its a big ol’ fuck you to the dry programming of CCTV.

  20. Blake,

    Thanks for the great link!

    Sam,

    Yes, what you say is totally true. But I’m more interested in writing about Chinese entertainment than Chinese politics. And as entertainment, the show was pretty horrible.

  21. The show was horrible. My colleague reminded me insistently 2 days before and on the finale day itself to watch it, so I decided, fine, let’s see what’s so special about it.

    I tuned in at 8.20pm and just had to turn off the TV at 8.40pm cos I couldn’t take the saccharine (really artificial) of it all. It was really irksome, and apart from 1 girl who sang quite well (she sang “don’t cry for me, argentina”), the rest were horrible. And there were all those whiny, irritating commentaries.

    I didn’t hear the winner sing so I don’t know if she’s good or bad but I’m amazed at how crazy people were over the SuperGirls in the post-finale events. Crying at airport etc. Wow, I must be really old and out of touch – generation gap, peut-etre.

  22. i watched it.. and i honestly thought it was good.. i mean seriously.. although it sounded pathetic to most of you.. but i think this show, despite its lack of organisation, it is far better than shows like american idols… perhaps it is because you’ve only watched the last one, i don’t know. But i only watched part of it, and since then, i tried to follow other episodes of it. To be honest, the finale was quite of a let down, because it wasn’t as emotional as the previous episodes. Mayb you should try and watch some other ones. But i think guys are normally not into these kind of things anyway. At first, i thought the show is crap too.. But then when i watched it longer, i felt that it is definitely different from other shows. They singers are really talented. No offence to anyone who like Idol, but i mean, how many finalists from Idol can sing like them? There was a part where each of the finalist’s three fans get to pick a song. Then they sang it on spot. I think that was brilliant. Anyway, Super Girl is Super GOOD in my view.. hehe..

  23. i really like girls’ showing themselves in this way .
    because of low requiements,many girls were able to take part in the programme.
    it’s real a good chance to show themselves and enjoy themselves.

  24. The third girl is excellent.i am a japanese ~i like Supergirl

  25. I’m surprised to find that so many people who are not chinese are also interested in china super girl. i like Li’s songs ang they are different from other mainstream pop songs.

  26. The 2006 china super girl is coming and hope it would be as attractive as last year’s.

  27. Hey, let’s resurrect this thread!!!

    Did you see the first episode of the new Supergirl season? It’s the Chansha qualifying round, and they had people flying in from as far away as Jilin to get an extra change to compete in the pre-contest rounds. What did you think of the judges? At first I thought the older guy was a total blowout, but his criticism was straight on and when he broke down during the 淘汰 round it was so sincere. Also did you notice that they hardly had any commercials besides Mengniu’s? Most of the ad content was promos for other shows on Hunan TV, a strategy straight out of the American TV station playbook. We’ll have to see how those high-cost ads play out next week. Remember, Friday evening! (with re-runs on Saturday afternoon)

    Hooray!

  28. how do you think american idol?
    ps:your girlfriend doesn’t like a girl.

  29. to be honest, leave your girlfriend.

  30. kk,

    To be honest, I am incredibly impressed/grateful that my girlfriend remained sensible and sane in a country gone mad.

  31. I think Supergirl is popular among chinese girls because it attracts people.It is massive public. It is very easy for a girl who is become a star, overnight succeess, and much money following.

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