Inter-Asia Cultural Studies: Movements

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17.1 visual essay



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  »  Issues Contents  2010-01-14 'Democratic entertainment’ commodity and unpaid labor of reality TV


'Democratic entertainment’ commodity and unpaid labor of reality TV: a preliminary analysis of China’s Supergirl
Miaoju JIAN and Chang-de LIU
Abstract China's Supergirl, a popular reality talent show, is fairly similar to American Idol in the sense that it created new forms of media commodities as well as new forms of labor. Because of this, the entertainment industry has been able to generate profits in China's growing broadcasting and, up to now underdeveloped, music markets. By analyzing both the production and consumption of Supergirl, this paper describes the economic development of reality TV in China. We also analyze how this talent show produced a flexible and localized commodity. This paper suggests that a different perspective is needed in order to understand the ways in which the organizers steer and manipulate the audience participation. Volunteer and unpaid labor is created by promoting the 'TV Cinderella myth'. Fans and participants are symbolically paid in a form of 'dream-fulfillment'. People, otherwise accustomed to a Communist regime, are now charmed by a certain amount of apparent democracy that is displayed during the singing contests. This paper coins the above mentioned process as being a specific commodity of 'democratic entertainment' in China.
Keywords: reality TV; unpaid labor; democratic entertainment; Supergirl
Authors’ biographies
Miaoju Jian is Associate Professor in the Department of Communication at National Chung-cheng University, Chiayi, Taiwan. Her PhD dissertation explores the aesthetic modernity of Taiwan popular music from the 1980s to the 1990s. Her research interests include popular music, fan/audience studies, and postmodern media culture. More recently, she has concentrated her research on the localization and globalization of the Reality TV phenomenon.
Chang-de Liu is Associate Professor in the Department of Journalism at National Chengchi University, Taipei, Taiwan.

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