It’s kind of interesting how her English name in the U.S. shows no trace of Chinese heritage, but when she appears on ads in China, her English name is not used at all.
Turns out that “Wang” is her surname by birth (her father is Chinese), and she actually pursued a singing career in mainland China as a teenager, using the name 汪可盈.
According to Wikipedia:
While pursuing an acting career in Hollywood, she changed her name to “Chloe Bennet,” after having trouble booking gigs with her last name. According to Bennet, using her father’s first name, rather than his last name avoids difficulties being cast as an ethnic Asian American while respecting her father.
Furthermore, she has explained Hollywood’s racism this way:
“Oh, the first audition I went on after I changed my name [from Wang to Bennet], I got booked. So that’s a pretty clear little snippet of how Hollywood works.”
The ad, using super simple Chinese, reads:
找工作 [(when) looking for a job] 我要跟 [I want to] 老板谈 [talk with the boss]
Saw this Game of Thrones / Chinese culture mash-up gem last night on a Chinese friend’s WeChat “Moments” stream. Too good not to share! Apparently a Chinese Photoshop artist created these, and I’d like credit this person, but I’m still trying to figure out who it is!
Too bad they’re not high-quality images… it seems they were intended for a smallish smartphone screen.
P.S. If anyone knows the original artist, please let me know, and I’ll credit his/her ASAP!
2017-08-17 Update: The Photoshop artist is Weibo user 青红造了个白. He/she has tons of other similar works. Thanks to Danielle Li and Rachel for the info!
Breaking Bad was an awesome drama. Better Call Saul is looking like it’s shaping up to be another great story. But if you’re not already familiar with both series, it’s far from obvious that the two are connected based on their titles alone. Not so with Chinese!
绝命 (not a common word at all) according to my dictionary means “to kill oneself” (but here, while not entirely clear, must mean something like “at the end of one’s rope”), and 毒师 (also not at all a common word) would be something like “drug master” (which you could translate as “drug lord,” but “drug lord” is more commonly expressed in Mandarin as 毒枭). The word 毒师 was likely chosen because it’s similar to 老师, and Walter White begins the series as a chemistry teacher. Meanwhile, 律师 is actually a common word meaning “lawyer,” however. It seems to be just a fortuitous coincidence that the new series name can play off the old series name so neatly.
Now, you could definitely argue that neither is a good translation of the original English series title, but both “Breaking Bad” and “Better Caul Saul” would be extremely hard to translate well into Chinese. It does seem that keeping consistency of translation to link the two is a nice little added benefit when you can’t very faithfully translate the original titles anyway.
I’ve mentioned before that I occasionally indulge in the Chinese dating show 非诚勿扰. There’s another one of these reality TV-type Chinese shows that I watch from time to time called 非你莫属 (English name: “Only You”). On this show, each entrant is a job applicant given a chance to explain the type of job he’s looking for and interview with a panel of 12 bosses right there on camera. If all goes well, the bosses make offers to the applicant, and details of salary are discussed right on the show. Finally, the applicant is given a chance to accept the final offers or decline them and leave the stage.
This show is appealing for a number of reasons. There is quite a range of applicants, from young kids with no experience, to senior citizens, to the destitute and desperate, to the physically abnormal. Quite a few of the applicants just plain don’t have much to offer. The “bosses,” who are on the show to promote their own companies, can also say some interesting things. Perhaps one of the most compelling aspects to me is seeing what kind of job offers are made on the show, and what salaries the applicants will accept.
After watching this show for a while, I was surprised to see recently that there was a young American applicant. Unlike 非诚勿扰 (the dating show), which has had quite a few foreigners on the show, I’d never seen it on this show. The applicant was a 25-year-old white American male named Nathan (Chinese name: 尚德). Having lived in Beijing for a while, Nathan spoke pretty solid Chinese, and had no major issues communicating on the show. But the bosses’ reactions to Nathan were not quite what I expected.
I’ve already admitted before that I watch the Chinese dating show 非诚勿扰. Well, I’m still watching it, and the cultural and linguistic observations are starting to pile up. Today, though, I just wanted to mention one of the ones that strikes me as particularly odd.
Photo by Matthew Mittelstadt
In the program, as each male contestant is introduced, several video clips are shown. These videos reveal more about the man’s career and outlook on life, about his attitudes toward love and marriage, etc. Pretty much without exception, each of these short videos is referred to as a “VCR.”
Yes, “VCR.” It’s not a word we use as much anymore, but we still know it to mean “video cassette recorder.” Then what’s going on here? Chinese has a perfectly serviceable word for video: 视频. “Video clip” is 视频片断. Not only that, but the English word “video” is not uncommon among the younger generation. So why add this extra word, VCR, into the mix? Could “VCR” stand for something else in this context?
> 非诚勿扰里面的VCR的全称是什么? [What is “VCR” on Fei Cheng Wu Rao short for?]
> 电视上经常说VCR,.但偶不知道全称是什么,有知道的告诉一声1 [On TV they frequently say “VCR,” but I don’t know what the full term is. Can someone tell me?1]
> VCR是Video Cassette Recorder的缩写 盒式磁带录像机 [VCR is an acronym for Video Cassette Recorder]
> 但是在电视上的总以节目里面 例如某主持人说：“让我们先看一段VCR”这里的VCR的意思是指一个视频片断 [But in the program on TV, like when the host says, “let’s watch a VCR,” the word “VCR” refers to a video clip.]
Anonymous Q&A on the internet doesn’t exactly amount to conclusive evidence, but I’m pretty sure this is what most Chinese watchers of the show will surmise.
Furthermore, when I do a Baidu Images search for VCR, I get more confirmation that the word seems to be used this way (and only one picture on the first page of results which is what I consider to be a “VCR”). Could “VCR” be the next word for “video” in Chinese?
OK, I admit it. This Chinese TV show called 非诚勿扰 (English name: If You Are the One) has ensnared me. It’s just silly dating game television, but I find it interesting for a bunch of reasons. Here is the basic premise of the show, explained by Hello Nanjing:
> The basic concept of the show is that 24 girls will stand in a line, each atop a podium with a light hanging over their head. Facing them is one boy, who will at first secretly choose one of the girls to be his date. Then, he reveals some basic information about himself, after which each of the girls will decide whether he is ‘date-worthy’ or not.
> If a girl doesn’t like him, she will turn the light above her head off. If all 24 lights go off, the boy loses. If some lights remain on after the boy’s introduction, the boy may choose two or three of the girls for ‘future communication’. He also has the option in this case to choose a girl who turned her light off.
> Finally, with three girls left, the boy will ask another round of questions, after which he will make his final choice. If the girl accepts, they may walk towards each other, join hands, and head off into the sunset for a future date and possible romance.
The name of the show, 非诚勿扰 (as well as the English name), is the same as a rather boring movie by Feng Xiaogang (the article quoted above mistakenly included a shot of the cast of that movie). It’s taken from a line used in personal ads, which literally means, “if you’re not sincere, don’t disturb me” but would be translated more along the lines of “serious inquiries only please” in English language personals.
OK, so what’s so good about this show? It’s hard to say, but here are my guesses:
– It’s interesting to see which guys get shot down immediately by the 24 female candidates, and which can make it to the very end. (I evidently still have a lot to learn about the psyche of Chinese women.)
– The background music, which is always the same and used in every show, is hilariously cheesy, and yet so appropriate.
– The concept is so simple that it’s easy to follow the show, but there is enough interesting language used that I feel like I still learn useful words and phrases.
– The host, 孟非, and his “psychological analyst,” 乐嘉 make for an entertaining, bald-headed duo. They don’t feel like typical moron TV show hosts.
乐嘉 (Le Jia)
– 乐嘉 in particular is entertaining. He invented a personality analysis system based on colors which my wife had to use for her job (and I’ve been hearing about for years). At first you think, “who is this smiley, smug little bald man?” but then you really start to like him. And he totally casts a spell over all the female contestants, many of whom thank him specifically, all teary-eyed, when they finally leave the show. This guy is interesting!
– Although the show is filmed in Nanjing, participants come from all over China, which means you get to hear a wide variety of accents.
A few weeks ago, a series of clips from The Big Bang Theory, Season 1, Episode 17 became popular on various Chinese sites. In the episode, brainy theoretical physicist Sheldon says he has decided to learn Mandarin because:
> I believe the Szechuan Palace has been passing off orange chicken as tangerine chicken, and I intend to confront them.
Here’s the clip (on Tudou):
To someone who knows no Chinese, this episode works fine. However, native speakers of Mandarin will have trouble following a lot of what Sheldon is trying to say. Although most of the first scene would be easy to follow, a combination of inaccurate pronunciation and bizarre word choices in later scenes make the subtitles a necessity for even native speakers of Mandarin. (I forced my wife to watch this clip with the subtitles covered up, and she could only understand a few of the lines, even listening multiple times. You can also find more than one “what the heck is he saying??” conversations on the Chinese internet, like this one.) The Chinese clip adds Chinese subtitles, but some of them are inaccurate. The play-by-play is below.
I was recently watching an episode of the once-popular TV series Everybody Loves Raymond where the plot involved the main character’s mispronunciations of a few words. Naturally, I was curious how these slips of the tongue were translated into Chinese. The Chinese subtitles are tiny and pixelated, but if you strain a little you can see for yourself in the video below (10:28-13:08):
So what’s interesting about this translation is that tricky sequences of consonants in English, mispronounced, are being represented by wrong tones in Chinese. Here’s exactly how it plays out:
Originally I spotted this translation on DVD, but I went looking for it online to save time. Turns out that the video on Youku is a different translation, but exactly the same trick is used. In the version I first saw, 问 (wèn) was mispronounced as 闻 (wén).
So how is the translation? Would native Chinese speakers actually routinely make slip-ups of a tonal variety the way Ray does with “ax” and “asterix?” Actually, yes, but likely only if the speaker’s Mandarin is heavily influenced by another dialect. For example, my father-in-law is from the mountains of Hubei, and his Mandarin is pretty normal, but there are a few words whose tones he routinely mispronounces.
Despite the fantastical title, this is a blog post about translating into Chinese. Bear with me here.
Although she recognizes its importance, my wife has never been very enthusiastic about studying English, so over the years I’ve tried various ways of encouraging her to study. One of the earliest ideas I had was the TV show Friends. Tons of young Chinese people love it as study material, and ever since my teaching years in Hangzhou, I’ve always felt it’s great for that. (I’m not one of those Friends-bashers.) My wife, however, hated it. She thought it was dumb.
Eventually, we found the English TV show that she liked. To my surprise, it was Futurama. Now don’t get me wrong… I love the Simpsons, and I love Futurama, but I really didn’t expect my wife to like it. But she really, really did. (She continues to surprise me on a regular basis.)
So we found the English language TV show she wanted to watch, but she still wanted Chinese subtitles. And so the great “Hunt for Futurama-with-Chinese-Subtitles” began.
This turned out to be way more difficult than I imagined. We asked a lot of shops for a long time, and in the end we only ever found Season 1 with subtitles. In the process, however, I became familiar with Futurama’s Chinese names.
Yes, that’s names, because it has a few. It seems like the most popular one is 飞出个未来. Taken literally, it doesn’t make much sense… something like “fly out a future.” I guess it sort of jives with Futurama’s opening sequence, but what the name is actually doing is approximating the sound of the English word “future” with the Chinese word 飞出. Kinda clever, if crafty transliteration is your bag, but certainly no masterpiece of translation.
The translation I like better is the one I first learned: 未来狂想曲. The first part, 未来, means “future.” OK, fine. But here’s where the interesting part comes. The next three characters are supposed to somehow represent “-rama” in Chinese. Considering that I’m not even sure how to explain what that means in English, I really feel that “-rama” is not easy to translate into Chinese, especially considering that this time the transliteration copout was not used.
The second part, 狂想曲, if broken down into three characters, literally means something like “crazy imagination tune.” It’s a real word that means “rhapsody” (in the musical sense). According to wikipedia:
> A rhapsody in music is a one-movement work that is episodic yet integrated, free-flowing in structure, featuring a range of highly contrasted moods, colour and tonality. An air of spontaneous inspiration and a sense of improvisation make it freer in form than a set of variations.
I think that description matches “-rama” and the feel of Futurama quite well, actually.
Still, if you’re a non-musician like myself, when you hear the word “rhapsody,” there’s a good chance you make this association:
Sure enough, “Bohemian Rhapsody” is 波西米亚狂想曲 in Chinese. I even found a website that translates all the lyrics of the song into Chinese. Just go to this 波西米亚狂想曲 page and watch the text to the right of the video as it plays. The translation isn’t 100% accurate (the translator also wimped out on “Scaramouche”), but it’s pretty decent. And more than a little awesome.
Sadly, the 未来狂想曲 translation of Futurama is seldom used, and has even been co-opted by a TV show called The Future is Wild. Ah, well. Easy come, easy go… doesn’t really matter to me.
I passed by a tattoo shop near my home the other day and snapped a picture of it. I briefly mused that with more and more Chinese tattoo shops opening, maybe foreigners can come to China to get their tattoos and finally get the Chinese characters right! (Of course then most people would have a language barrier to deal with, but that seems more surmountable to me than depending on a random tattoo artist to really know Chinese characters.)
Anyway, after looking at the picture of the shop at home, I decided to check out its website, yueyutattoo.com. Here’s what greeted me:
I hadn’t paid any attention to the Chinese name of the store until I saw its website. The tattoo shop is capitalizing on the success in China of the TV show Prison Break to sell its tattoos. The Chinese name for “Prison Break” is 越狱 (Yuèyù). I understand the main character has a big tattoo vital to the storyline.
Today while grocery shopping at Carrefour I discovered a rather extensive collection of non-pirated DVDs. It was really kind of shocking. I’m not talking about just Roman Holiday or Charlie Chaplin or whatever; I’m talking about movies that were in theatres in the States in the past year. Most were priced at about 20 RMB. While that’s still close to triple the pirated price tag, it’s moving into the affordable range. With DVDs priced at 20 RMB, many Shanghai consumers could still afford them (although they might have to get choosier) if the police were ever to really crack down on DVD piracy instead of just pretending to.
Kung Fu, Season 1
But anyway… this post is about the old TV series with David Carradine, Kung Fu (Chinese title 功夫, not to be confused with the Stephen Chow movie of the same name). I found Season 1 on DVD at Carrefour priced at 118 RMB for the 6-disc set. Anti-piracy saint that I am, I plunked down all that cash for the official version.
When I think about it, the TV show Kung Fu was probably my first exposure to “Chinese culture” growing up, aside from the occasional Chinese restaurant. I was never very interested in China until about two years before coming here, so it’s kind of interesting to revisit one of my earliest sources of Chinese cultural input to see what I think of it now. I remember watching bits of the TV show with my dad as a child and finding it pretty boring. So now, about 20 years later, I have a chance to see what I missed.
I was also curious what Chinese people think of this TV show… I mean, it’s a story about a Shaolin monk in the American Old West, but it was written in the 70’s, mainly by Americans Howard Friedlander and Ed Spielman. I’m just going to take a wild guess here and say that they’re probably not eminent sinologists. The chances of massive cultural gaffes are great. You have tons of flashback scenes of the young protagonist at Shaolin Temple, and you can’t watch 5 minutes without someone spouting some sort of Eastern philosophy. Bruce Lee was co-creator, though, so maybe he made sure they got it mostly right?
Not being a journalist, I’m not bound to do any real research about this kind of thing, so I simply asked Xiao Wang (my ayi). She was very familiar with the show, and though it was great. Well, cool… at least some Chinese like it. She didn’t erupt into spontaneous laughter, anyway.
Three little details I noticed after watching the first episode:
1. The main character of the showed is called Caine. His name is written in the Chinese subtitles as 凯恩. This is also the Chinese name of Ken Carroll, co-founder of ChinesePod, as well as of his Kaien English School. Coincidence??
2. In one scene there are two clear references to Shaolin Temple as being in Hunan. But it’s not. It’s in Henan. The Chinese subtitles got it right.
3. Caine’s full name is Kwai Chang Caine. Apparently the Chinese translators couldn’t make any sense of that as a Chinese name, so they called him 凯恩· 张.
If you want English audio, the DVD won’t let you turn off the Chinese subtitles. It’s not a big deal except that I can’t help reading the subtitles. So I end up nitpicking the translation even though I don’t want to. On the plus side, though, I’ll learn how to say things like, “when you can take the pebble from my hand, it will be time for you to leave” in Chinese. And living in China, you know that’s going to come in handy.
UPDATE: Once upon a time, Prince Roy offered insight into the issue of Kwai Chang Caine’s real name and the location of Shaolin Temple.
I’ve been seeing and hearing a lot about IPTV lately. The image at left is the ad I now see every month in my phone bill from China Telecom. So what is IPTV? According to Wikipedia:
> IPTV (Internet Protocol Television) describes a system where a digital television service is delivered using the Internet Protocol over a network infrastructure, which may include delivery by a broadband connection. For residential users, IPTV is often provided in conjunction with Video on Demand and may be bundled with Internet services such as Web access and VoIP.
I’m going to be moving into a new apartment soon, and IPTV is an option I’ve been considering. I’m not sure how wide the offerings are, if it compares with satellite TV (which can be a slight hassle because it’s technically “illegal”), and how easy it would be to use in conjunction with satellite TV.
Oh, and then there’s also the whole “why pay for something you can get for free online already?” issue. Well, it’s not that simple. The internet here is slow. YouTube is slow. Bittorrent downloads take a long time. The IPTV connection should be fast; real “video on demand.” For the time being, it may very well be worthwhile.
I’ve done some internet research, but I think what will help inform me the most is to make a trip to the China Telecom building (I need to go there to pay an overdue phone bill anyway) and see what they can tell (and hopefully show) me.
No, I’m not talking about that Chinaman. I’m talking about ChinaMan!
So I grew up during the 80’s. I still like some of that cheesey stuff like ewoks and Adventure for Atari 2600. Not long ago I discovered that I could acquire all three seasons of the old TV show “The Greatest American Hero” through the magic of bittorrent. Acquire it I did, and I’ve been getting a real kick out of those old episodes (especially all the parts about fighting the commies). What really surprised me, though, was the logo on the main character’s suit.
The Greatest American Hero
When I first watched the show some twenty years ago, the logo meant nothing to me. Now when I look at it, it very distinctly looks like a stylized Chinese character 中 (meaning “middle” or “China”).
Of course the resemblance is most likely just coincidence, but when I showed the show to a Chinese friend, the question immediately arose: “why does he have a 中 on his chest?” I responded, “yeah, it does look like a 中, doesn’t it? But it’s not.” That got me a, “what are you talking about? It’s a 中!”
So is the Greatest American Hero actually ChinaMan? Or maybe the “aliens” that gave him the superpower suit in the first place were actually just the Chinese?
Totally not photoshopped
One more weird GAH/China connection: in Episode 1 of Season 2, the hero stops a bus marked “CBL.” CBL also happens to stand for the China Blog List, which, as luck would have it, also uses “中” as its logo. Coincidence??
OK, yes. That one is a coincidence.
But what’s the deal with the Greatest American Hero and 中?
If you do search for Zhang Ziyi on Youtube, you’ll find quite a few commercials. As I see it, this is good for Ziyi fans as well as those interested in either learning Chinese or seeing Chinese commercials. (Unfortunately, some have no audio.)
Here are some of the commercials featuring Zhang Ziyi to be found on Youtube:
The other day as Xiao Wang (my ayi, a 32-year-old woman from the Harbin area) arrived, I was watching the news. Wen Jiabao (温家宝) was making some statement or other. Xiao Wang didn’t pay any attention. She started fixing dinner.
It suddenly occurred to me to get Xiao Wang’s take on Chinese politics, so I asked her what she thought of Hu Jintao (胡锦涛). I think it confused her a little, because Wen Jiabao was on TV, and I was talking about Hu Jintao. But her response was, “I don’t watch the news much.”
Not satisfied with that, I pressed her: “but don’t you have some opinion about the government?”
Looking up at the TV, which now showed a People’s Congress session in Beijing, she replied, “look at them… they’re all a bunch of Southerners.”
A recent post by Micah reminded me about this guy Li Yong (李咏). Before I followed Micah’s link to the NY Times article on Li Yong, I didn’t even know who Li Yong was, but upon seeing the picture accompanying the story, I was all, “Oh, that guy!”
This guy is extremely familiar to those of us who have lived in China for long because he has hosted quite a few of CCTV’s Chinese New Year Craptaculars (春节联欢晚会) in recent years. If you watch a lot of Chinese TV (I sure don’t), I suppose you might know him from other programs as well. He’s immediately recognizable because of his long hair and often weird clothing. I don’t really have any feelings about the guy one way or another. Really, all I wanted to know was his name. When a face becomes that familiar, it’s good to have a name to go with it.
Finally, a question for those with more native-like Chinese than my own. Is 咏 a really weird character to use for a name or what? When I started searching for a pic of the guy based on just the pinyin (no tone), I needed to guess at the characters, and I figured “Yong” was probably either 勇 or 庸 (like 朱德庸). I had to change tactics because none of my guesses were right. 咏?? 咏 means to recite or chant or something. Is this not a bizarre choice of characters for a name?
The Chinese media is way too excited about plastic surgery. It’s pathetic. Time is writing about the Asian trend too, although this “news” is far from new. But it’s not dying down.
I don’t watch much TV or read a lot of Chinese news, but even I have seen quite a few “丑女变美女” (“ugly woman turns into a beautiful woman”) stories. Here are two sample shots from an online story that came out last week:
In the “before” shot she’s not even that ugly! She’s clearly not wearing any makeup, not wearing nice clothes, and she’s purposely looking dejected. She probably hasn’t washed her hair for a few days just for this picture. According to the story, “because of her appearance, she was driven away when she applied for jobs, scared people when she went out, and didn’t have any friends.” What bullshit. It makes me angry.
Then in the “after” shot… well, all I can say is, congratulations, you’re now a clone of the super generic Chinese “pretty girl.” (The surgery was actually intended to reproduce the look of a certain Chinese star. See the story for pics of that.)
OK, so I’ll admit that she looks prettier on the right, but the actual difference is not very extreme. What would drive this girl to seek out plastic surgery? Well, the Chinese media hyping it for all it’s worth sure didn’t help.
I also saw a short portion of a TV special which featured another “ugly woman.” The woman in that special was a different story. She looked extremely odd — unhealthy. I strongly suspect she didn’t get the proper nourishment as a child. She was way too thin, and her voice sounded like a child’s. The way she talked seemed to indicate that she was of lower than normal intelligence, too. But she had definitely decided that the only way her life could be worth anything is if she got plastic surgery. The show was about her quest to get the surgery paid for somehow despite the fact that she didn’t have much money. It was basically a “look how ugly I am — pity me!” campaign. Really sad.
I don’t mean to judge these people. You can’t argue with quotes like this (from Time):
> “I always wanted to believe people were ultimately judged by what was inside,” she muses, her gaze hesitant and sad. “But I knew from my personal experience that this wasn’t true. It’s always the pretty girls who win the good things in life.”
I also don’t mean to suggest that this trend is China- or Asia-specific. I’ve just been seeing it here so much lately. The whole thing is just so sad. It’s the media that should be condemned. It really seems like the media has made some kind of promotion deal with plastic surgery providers. The hype is just everywhere.
Danwei.org did a post on the “transsexual blogfest” almost two years ago. Why, then, does it still feel like transsexuals are all the rage here in China?
Last week I caught Korean transsexual superstar Harisu in China on TV doing some kind of Chinese gameshow. They just kept showering her with comments the whole time, going on and on about how pretty, sexy, and feminine she is. I wanted to hear her voice. I was curious what it would sound like. Unfortunately, they were doing this simultaneous interpretation thing, and Harisu’s voice was dubbed over in a female Chinese voice for the broadcast. (Harisu’s voice was just barely audible in the background, too soft to hear clearly.)
Then on Saturday a Western documentary on transsexuals was aired on Chinese TV. It was dubbed in Chinese, and a good source of vocabulary. The words 变性人 (transsexual) and 生殖器 (reproductive organs) got drilled into familiarity.
What I found most interesting were the voices used to dub the transsexuals featured in the documentary. In every case, the “transmen” were dubbed by women affecting a deep voice, and the “transwomen” were dubbed by men affecting high, feminine voices. One of the transwomen looked like a completely normal woman, and one of the transmen looked very masculine — you would never have pegged him for someone who had had a sex change. And yet they still got stuck with these voices in the Chinese dub. I couldn’t hear how their real voices sounded, so I don’t know how well the dubbing reflected the original voices.
I wouldn’t have expected the transsexuals in the documentary to be dubbed that way because Harisu was dubbed in a female voice, and the Chinese media in general seems very accepting/supportive of transsexuals. To me, using the feminine voice to dub Harisu sent a subtle “she is completely feminine” message, while the voices used in the documentary sent a subtle “they can never be the gender they’re trying so hard to be” message.
I’m always surprised by how many Chinese guys admit that they find Harisu beautiful/hot on these TV shows. I think homophobia would prevent the majority of American men from making any such public admission.
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.