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Materialism in dating: a social malady or a feature of development?


Ever since Ma Nuo’s famous utterance of, what some would term, pure greed and materialism, increasing attention is being placed on young people’s material wants and how it influences China’s dating scene.  For those of you who don’t regularly tune into “If You are the One”, a popular dating reality show, Ma Nuo, one of the female contestants, in response to an offer from one of her suitors to ride a bike on a date replied: “I would rather cry in a BMW than laugh on a bicycle”.  The comment rocked and shocked conservative audiences.  Criticisms and comments about the prevalence of material wants and “necessities” of relationships in China became a hot topic, and led to the reform of dating reality shows throughout China. But is wanting a BMW over a bike a form of material greed or a symbol of desiring future financial security?  

If You Are the One was already well known as a show where the boys give it their all to find love, and the women deliver curt, brutal rejections for anything less than perfection.  But Ma Nuo’s BMW over biking comment wasn’t considered the normal reality TV entertainment.  The comment outraged viewers and raised the eyebrows of China’s censors.  Zhu Hong, an official spokes person of the Chinese state body said, “In this situation, if we don’t correct it [the state of reality television and media], it will have a negative influence on all of society.”  Now, according to directives from The State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, shows are not allowed to “show the ugly side of things” or dwell on some of the darker comments and topics that may come up on the show.  So instead of men flashing their cars, bank accounts, high status jobs, or ipads, you can expect to see more flashing along the lines of civic service backgrounds, award winning smiles, and good relationships with in-laws.

Materialism isn’t exactly a new fad, nor is it about to go away any time soon as digital tablets and trendy nightclubs continue to skyrocket in number.  Neither will negatives opinions that are associated with the seemingly growing amount of materialism in China’s young dating scene be diminishing in the near future. But it might help to also look at this hot trend from another point of view.  It’s well known that China is in a state of hyper-development after decades upon decades of facing social restrictions, political turmoil, and economic stagnation.  During such a prosperous time, it would make sense that today’s youth in China want to not only experience multi-faceted lifetime security, but also enjoy life as well.  Social constructs and wallet sizes are changing all the time, and while there may be a widening gap between the haves and have nots, those who feel that are in the position to have more may feel that now is the time to get it.  While materialism and status climbing may seem out of control and out of place within China’s dating scene, it may also just be a reflection of changing times, a developing economy, and less boundaries on societal behavior.  So while material goods and luxury may not be the end all be all that will save or corrupt China’s youth, it’s important to understand that security and enjoyment in are seen differently and are an extremely important part of any intimate relationship life regardless of nationality.


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