Xu Xiaomin

For love or leisure, let the question be

By Xu Xiaomin (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-07-01 06:42
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Ask a girl if she would rather weep in the backseat of a BMW of her sugar daddy or laugh riding a bike together with her true love, and she will either be amused, or give you a nasty look and walk away.

The question of money and love has boiled over into a national debate after guests on a TV matchmaking show broadcast on Jiangsu satellite channel made it be known that they would choose money over love anytime.

Ma Nuo shot to stardom almost overnight after she made clear her preference for being that weeping girl inside the BMW on the show. Another young participant on the same show, Zhu Zhenfang, appeared to shock the audience by declaring that she would allow any man (other than her boyfriend) to hold her hand for money.

If you think hand-holding is innocent enough, think again. Zhu's 'for-sale' notice has drawn the ire of many thousands of nameless defenders of traditional Chinese virtue who denounced both her and Ma in decidedly untraditional vile language online.

The controversy has grown into such monstrous proportions that it appears to have touched a raw nerve with the authorities.

Just weeks ago, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television issued a directive to cleanse the matchmaking programs of vulgarity, which, of course, include the glorification of money worship.

I didn't watch the program and don't necessarily agree with the views of those two young women. They made me think of the Chinese saying: The bird that raises its head first, gets blasted first.

I am sure Ma and Zhu were speaking their minds on the show. In fact, I believe that many young women, especially those in Shanghai and other big commercial cities, share their feelings.

But saying those things out loud on TV has obviously offended the sensibilities of many fellow citizens. The program on which they appeared, and some other similar ones, may be vulgar and bordering on the unethical, but they have always topped the popularity charts, indicating that there is a large audience for such stuff.

Perhaps money worship has become a social norm rather than a sin, and those two young women really shouldn't be blamed for speaking their minds, which apparently have been shaped by their environment in school and at work.

To me, such real-life shows are a brief summary of the current ethos. The popularity of matchmaking programs and these money-worshipping women are definitely part of an increasingly materialistic culture.

The men, of course, do not fare any better. In a typical matchmaking show, the men almost invariably try to flaunt their wealth to attract the women. The way they talk about their status is a clear demonstration of their belief in the power of money.

In fact, wishing to marry someone rich is nothing new. A girl's longing for a powerful and wealthy groom has been etched in Chinese poetry throughout the ages.

Why should we blame the modern-day woman for expressing a similar wish. Let the money-worshippers ride in their BMWs and live in luxury villas. Others can keep on biking if they so desire.

E-mail: xuxiaomin@chinadaily.com.cn