America may have lost its edge in manufacturing, medicine, and environmental innovation, but we are still the leading exporter of entertainment. Every country in the world copies the American movies and television, and reality television, one of the cheapest forms of entertainment, has caught on like wildfire, especially in Asia.
In China, the dating show “If You Are the One”, which premiered almost a year ago, has inspired the Communist government censors to crackdown on the television industry as a whole. “One” and a talent show “Super Girl” have inspired government policy to curb “excessive entertainment.” What’s meant by that term is anyone’s guess, after all, that’s the beauty of communism – being its enemy is a changing, nebulous thing. Censors threatened to cancel the show, but producers brought in older contestants and an older host to calm the Party down. Objections to the show include the unapologetic materialism of the contestants and criticisms of the one-child policy. What would Chinese censors say about “The Robin Byrd Show” I wonder…
“Through this show, you can tell what China is thinking about and chasing after,” said Mr. Wang, a veteran Chinese television producer. Perhaps the same can be said about the new Samaa TV show in Pakistan. The show features a group of middle-class women who have appointed themselves arbiters of moral behavior. Most of the action consists of following these women as they storm a public park, breaking up couples showing each other affection. Even if couples claim they are married, the women demand to see their marriage license. Government pressure has forced the host, Maya Khan, to apologize for using extreme tactics that made people cry. Much of the material on Pakistan’s eighty channels include reality shows that highlight personal vigilantism, like raids on alcohol consumers and harassment of local criminals.
In both countries, the government has stepped in to curtail the shows and therein freedom of speech. Chinese TV shows are criticized by the government for being too liberal; Pakistani for being too backward. Though seemingly disparate, both objections reflect the ambivalence of Asia’s relationship with the West, and specifically with the US: the continual source of both allure and corruption. For me, all this reality television makes me proud to be an Amurikan.