Are China’s Pretty Little Rebels Woke or Nope?

Despite all-female idol shows trying to break from tradition, critics argue that producers and viewers aren’t yet ready for a complete overhaul.

The9 and BonBon Girls 303 are the latest additions to China’s growing crop of girl groups.

Products of the popular girl group talent shows “Youth With You” and “Chuang” — produced by streaming giants iQiyi and Tencent, respectively — the nine-member The9 and seven-member BonBon Girls 303 have become instant sensations for millions of young Chinese.

If hashtags are any indication of success, the names of the two shows have collectively been viewed more than 78 billion times on microblogging site Weibo.

With their singles landing as smash hits, The9 and BonBon Girls 303 have gained all the stardom the talent-search shows promised. But how far have the girl bands gone toward smashing gender stereotypes?

Here’s Sixth Tone’s look at three of the most-discussed gender-related topics from “Youth With You” and “Chuang.”

Brave, bold, and ambitious

The 2020 season of “Chuang” encouraged its participants to “dare,” urging them to be brave, bold, and ambitious. Breaking from its usual format of choreographed performances in a scheduled lineup, the show instead asked participants to come onstage voluntarily in order to create a more competitive atmosphere.

The phrase “Am I not high enough?” — popularized by a participant who finished fourth in this year’s competition — became a buzzword on Chinese social media. She claimed that she was ditched by sponsors for reasons that were never explained, despite ranking as high as second during the show.

But even with the show’s purportedly progressive themes, many fans noted that “Chuang” was unable to break the stereotype of women as trophies. In fact, the show’s first episode had a “waistline challenge” favoring the slimmest contestants.

“Women’s beauty isn’t decided by their weight or waistline,” one viewer commented under a related Weibo post. Continue to read the full article here


– This article originally appeared on Sixth Tone.