Sunday, August 28, 2005

Super Girls: boon or farce in China's TV entertainment industry

The finale of "Super Girls," an "American Idol"-type television pop star contest organized by a local satellite television service in central China, became one of the most widely watched TV programs in the country.

Some 200 million people tuned in to Hunan Satellite Television,with headquarters in Changsha, capital of central China's Hunan Province, for the live, three-hour finale of "Super Girls 2005" Friday night, which ended with Li Yuchun, 21, being named champion of the contest after having garnered over 3.52 million votes.

The lanky, shaggy-haired winner from Sichuan Province, southwest China, might have dominated the contest because of her "transgender appeal," which helped her win votes from both male and female viewers.

Votes were accepted via mobile phone text message services and each phone number was allowed 15 votes. Li just topped 20-year-old Zhou Bichang, who got more than 3.2 million votes.

The contest, which began half a year ago, with the participation of 150,000 women above the age of 16 from across the country and the number of viewers estimated at 2 million, was shown once a week. It has become talk of the town.

The contest has also triggered a debate about the development trend in the country's TV entertainment industry.

Yu Zhenyi, a professor with Sichuan Conservatory of Music, argued the popularity of "Super Girls" lied in the fact that it dealt a strong impact on the reserved expression of China's traditional culture and aesthetic standards because people are fed up with the entertainment programs which have long dominated the media as time goes by tend to embrace things anew.

Professor Jiang Yuanlun, also head of the Institute of Journalism and Mass Media with the Beijing Normal University, thought "Super Girls" was appealing to the eyeballs of the Chinese because it satisfied the aspiration of the general public for demonstrating themselves, venting their feelings.

"When most TV program makers still cling to the notion of 'beauties only', viewers find in 'Super Girls' more entertaining elements such as the participants showcasing themselves in their own way though it was obvious that they had had no professional training in singing and dancing," said Jiang.

He even heralded "Super Girls" to foreshadow the start of a new era characterized by real-person shows in the country's TV entertainment industry.

"'Super Girls' are totally different from previous popular entertainment programs such as evening song and dance galas, or quiz tests in which audience acted passively," said Jiang.

Some specialists think the other way. They believe the stardom movement was no good to the growth of teenagers alike.

Xia Xueluan, a professor of social sciences with the elite Beijing University, said it might help teenagers to enrich their experience in life and broaden their horizon by competing in such activities as "Super Girls," but the price has proved to be too high.

"Some teenagers who are weak in self control tends to indulge themselves in the farce: they are so preoccupied with it that they don't have much thought for learning cultural basics or simply miss classes in order to participate in the contest," said Xia.

"The 'Super Girls' craze for popularity overnight also gives way to fickleness in society and speculative psychology among girls."

For weeks, fans have been turning up at venues of the contests,shouting and carrying posters of their favorite "Super Girls" contestants in a bid to rally votes in their favor. On Friday, the streets in Changsha were swamped with thousands of fans doing last minute campaigning, with some supporters promising free pop star photos to people who voted on the spot. There were occasions when the situation ran out of control.

Shi Tongyu, a fellow researcher with the Journalism Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, denounced the "Super Girls" contest as vulgar.

"Prime-time TV broadcasts on items such as news and cultural and educational programs should be increased so as to squeeze the time for show of similar vulgar programs as 'Super Girls'," suggested Shi.

Source: Xinhua


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