By LISA SHEN
Although it was just aired at the end of last year, the new Chinese reality television show “You Are So Beautiful” has been receiving criticism from viewers and media outlets alike. Most notably, Bobby Bark of Queer Eye remarked on Twitter about his disappointment about the lack of LGBTQ representation in the show. And he speaks with good authority, as the Chinese version sets up in a disturbingly similar fashion as the popular Netflix show. There’s Wu Xin, in charge of hair and makeup, Han Huo Huo with the fashion, Kun Ling with lifestyle changes, Fan Tian Tian with the cuisine and Huang Ji with the interior design.
There are many problems with the Chinese show. The first being plagiarization. In its official release, it was advertised as original content even though the layout, sequence of events, and the five people combination is almost an exact copy of Queer Eye. Plagiarization has long been an issue in Chinese entertainment, with both reality tv shows and regular programs. However, the questionable ethics of tv making aside, the Chinese versions somehow, almost always make the shows worse than they were. The Chinese version often just copy the outside, the process of these shows with little to no understanding of the spirit of the show. “Beautiful” is no different from that. The Chinese version skips over the fact that the main purpose of the makeover show is to make people a better version of themselves, unlike Queer Eye, where the Fav five makes tweaks to the contestant’s life while still allowing them to keep their unique personalities.
Second, the ensemble of Queer Eye or the Fab 5 is all trained professionals before the show. They each have highly specialized areas that they have the ability to target. However, “You Are So Beautiful” only has two professionals out of the five people cast. The other three include a TV show host, actress, and wife of Jay Chou and a famous debate show contestant. This created the problem of the hosts/celebrities looking down on the contestants due to them not having the years of experience of changing the lives of more “ordinary” people. Their advice comes from a place of privilege and mockery, instead of understanding. The result is short-term, universal yet generic solutions. Without the resources of an entire team, there is no way that they will be able to keep up with the changes. behind an entire team, there is no way for the individuals to keep up the changes made.
Third, similar to Bobby’s commentary, the show is entirely straight. The Chinese government has long been homophobic and has censored many contents such as movies like “Broke Back Mountain” and “Call Me By Your Name.” And sure, there might be nothing inherently wrong with using all straight perspectives, however, it falls short in the main idea of loving and accepting oneself. Queer Eye uses LGBTQ perspectives to showcase the similarities between people while promoting individuality. The new version, on the other hand, not only abolishes the queer point of view, it condemns most ways of living as it promotes a lifestyle that seems most desirable in the public’s eyes. The show so far has only had female guests. And while this seems innocent by itself, the Chinese society has always been a patriarchal and sexist society. The show seems to further the discrimination when it hints at the idea that only females need to change themselves. In the first episode, a female Ph.D. holder was ridiculed because she didn’t wear makeup, the room was too bare and herself not feminine enough. The episode ended with a “fairy-tale” ending with the contestant in a wedding dress even though she explicitly stated her desire to not get married. The second episode started with a husband complaining about how her wife “changed.” She became less focused on her own appearances and became more irritable, completely forgetting and failing to help her with their quadruplets. This ended with the wife apologizing to the husband and said she would spend more time on herself. The third and fourth episodes followed a similar trend. All starting with females trying their best with the conditions given, only to be “transformed” into a similar makeup-wearing, men-pleasing ideal. “Beautiful” reinforces the ideal woman in Chinese society, one that is feminine, always put-together and a good companion to the males in their lives. Not only is this molding the antithesis of Queer Eye, but it also seems to be outdated in ideas. Most tv shows results from a need from the people and seems to be a reflection of society. “Beautiful” seems to be propaganda used to influence young females in China to return back to the mold, despite the current trend of more Chinese women realizing the importance of feminism.