Wednesday, February 04, 2015

U.S. reality TV doesn't have a monopoly on mocking rural life; China facing similar dilemma

The U.S. isn't the only country where television often portrays rural areas and people in a poor light. American television loves to air shows centered around hillbillies, rednecks, country folk and all manner of idiots and buffoons living in squalor and ramshackle homes. (Zuma Press photo: A farmer plucks a lotus root from a pond in Hongze County, east China’s Jiangsu province)

But apparently the U.S. doesn't have a monopoly on making money off rural stereotypes of poverty and lack of education. China's state media has asked TV producers to stop making the country's 900 million farmers seem so "miserable" and "ugly," Lilian Lin reports for The Wall Street Journal.

"Once a beloved national staple, TV dramas featuring rural life hit peak popularity in the 1980s, just as China started its process of economic reform that fueled the creation of a new generation of the middle class," Lin writes. "More recently, though, their popularity has waned, with viewers these days preferring ancient costume dramas (preferably those with cleavage), those featuring urbanites or Korean and American TV dramas, often viewed via video streaming sites."

"Among those TV productions with a rural theme remaining, said an article published Tuesday by Communist Party flagship paper the People’s Daily, many tend to present only a shallow image of such lives," Lin writes. "Specifically, most such shows largely reflect misery and the plight of the old and sick in the countryside. Alternately, they are comedic or romantic and ultimately rather shallow in nature, said Yin Hong, a Tsinghua University professor cited by the article."

In December, China announced it was sending members of the entertainment industry to rural areas so they can "form a correct view on art."

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