First Impression: Differences in Western and Chinese TV

Born in Vietnam and subsequently emigrating to America, I feel like I have had the best of both worlds. Growing up, I would spend hours locked to my television screen watching Chinese historical dramas and soap operas, sometimes as much as 5 hours or more per day. My sisters would typical rent drama series and we would all watch them together as a time to bond. I soon realized that there was a big difference between Western and Chinese TV shows.

The major difference in TV shows was the overall message. Chinese TV shows mainly focus on Chinese culture, history and moral values. With the short attention spans that most kids have nowadays, I feel that this has indirectly affected the types of TV shows that are popular in the US. For instance, Western TV shows seem to be geared towards fast and blunt humor to provide more shock value. Television shows, such as MTV’s Jersey Shore and Teen Mom can be seen as complete opposites of popular Chinese TV shows. Yes, these shows can provide quick entertainment and guilty pleasures, but they don’t uphold the good moral and family values that Chinese programs uphold. I’m not saying America has an absence of morality but it is not conveyed through the television screen like in China.

Phi watching Chinese shows

Phi Anh watching Chinese Shows

When I arrived in Beijing, the first drama broadcasted on my television was the drama I grew up watching. It is one of my all-time favorites, “Return of the Condor Heroes (神雕侠侣)” in Vietnamese it is called “Than Dieu Hiep Lu”. Watching it in Mandarin brought back memories of my childhood. This drama is a love story that revolves around two people and their adventures in martial arts. The series does not contain any foul language or reference any inappropriate situations, which is unlike the typical dramas back home. I really feel at ease in China when I turn on the television because I can flip through the channels and am free of any inappropriate material. However, back home, I feel the need to constantly censor or avoid certain TV stations since I have younger siblings around that can easily be exposed programs that are not suited for their age group.

Growing up watching Chinese TV shows and also coming to visit China, I learned that Chinese media and television really are different from their American counterparts. I recently read a blog on how American media is influencing China and a Chinese fan even stated that the characters from one of his favorite American shows are beginning to influence him. My only question is: how long will it take for Western media to fully immerse itself within Chinese TV and movies? I guess we will see with my next visit to China. Hopefully, there won’t be too many stations running the new season of “The Kardashians”.

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