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China has ordered television and streaming broadcasters in the country to stop producing reality shows that feature “sissy men”.

“Broadcast and TV institutions must not screen idol development programs or variety shows and reality shows that feature the children of celebrities,” said the National Radio and Television Administration, the country’s broadcast regulator.

The country has since released a list of 24 “best programs” in the first quarter of 2021. The titles included several programs related to China’s leader, Xi Jinping, as well as one called “revealing how the BBC produces anti-intellectual reports.

Why is this happening?

  • Reality idol shows are watched widely in China in recent years as innovative formats of such from countries such as South Korea and Britain make their way into the country and have been adapted locally.

  • Popular shows like Youth with You and Produce 101, which goes inside the process of how boys’ and girls’ groups are formed. The shows transform Chinese contestants from ordinary backgrounds into celebrities through fierce competition and rigorous mentorship.

  • These reality shows have a big following of ardent supporters who follow other celebrities. For example, after the Canadian-Chinese pop star Kris Wu was arrested on rape allegations a few weeks ago, many of his loyal fans reportedly designed a “prison break” to “save” him.

  • China then slammed the behaviors of China’s “chaotic” fandoms, deeming them as irrational celebrity worship.

  • It is also concerned about the broader societal culture shaped by young Chinese people’s consumption of celebrity news and entertainment shows, and its potential to run against the current value promoted in China.

What is the new ruling?

  • Broadcasters are to resist “abnormal aesthetics” such as “sissy” men, “vulgar influencers”, stars’ inflated pay, and performers with “lapsed morals”.

  • The ruling wants to change artists’ violation of law and morality and chaos in the “fans community”, and to create an atmosphere of love for the party and the country, and respect for morality and art.

  • Chinese media must “resolutely resist showing off wealth and enjoyment, hyping up gossip and privacy, negative hot topics, vulgar ‘internet celebrities, and the bottomless appreciation of ugliness, and other pan-entertainment tendencies”.