Dad, Where Are We Going?: A study of a reality television show in the Chinese media market

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Li, BingNan
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Middle Tennessee State University
Censorship in China controls and constrains Chinese media, including television programs imported from other countries. As such, the reality TV show, Dad, Where Are We Going? was censored by the Chinese government, which forbade it to air after three seasons, except online. The purpose of this thesis is to examine both the program’s content and its audience reception to better understand why it was pulled from the air and then allowed to reappear online, as well as how viewers interpreted the program. Specifically, this study uses a narrative analysis of the third and fourth seasons of Dad, Where Are We Going?, combined with social media analysis of fan posts, to provide insight into censorship issues with this program. This study found that the show helped to redefine traditional gender roles and used a variety of strategic tools to attract its viewers. Furthermore, social media empowered viewers and contributed to the show’s popularity. The implications for this study are: First, the major direction of China’s TV entertainment market is one of cultural osmosis, meaning that the format of adapting another country’s successful television program and mixing it with Chinese social expectations will be repeated because it has proven lucrative; and second, unlike many other forms of voyeuristic reality television entertainment, Dad, Where Are We Going? has had positive and lasting outcomes for both its participants and its viewers, both pre- and post-banning. By analyzing these narratives, this thesis provides further implications for the deeper cultural elements, such as child-parent relationships, child-father relationships, China’s Two-Child policy, and the ethical concerns over the child reality stars’ mental health.