Is Hong Kong ready for the stark realities of a reality show?
Two programs about single men and women trying to find the other half have enjoyed successful runs but a mini series about seven ordinary ladies desperate to rise above their abject circumstances has been drawing complaints from viewers.
The problem with Nowhere Girls is not so much its theme but its glorification of ugliness and hopelessness.
It puts the women’s unhappy and discontented lives for all the world to see. Although the idea is to document their transformation into better persons, it’s not resonating with Hong Kong viewers.
Critics say the show sets a new low for Hong Kong television by amplifying negative traits and highlighting weakness, even disability.
Since its debut on TVB on Monday, the show has received 22 complaints from viewers, according to the Communications Authority, Hong Kong’s media watchdog.
They accused its producers of discriminating against ugly ducklings and women with low self-esteem and poor social graces, and those having a hard time getting suitors.
In one episode, one of the women is mocked as a “princess” for not doing any housework and not looking after her husband and children. She has a testy relationship with her mother-in-law and an unhappy family life.
In another, a woman from mainland China, who has a child by her Hong Kong husband, struggles with her self-confidence because of her poor Cantonese but still manages to antagonize the audience by saying Hong Kong men would not be able to find a wife if there were no rural Chinese women.
The show’s inartful treatment of cross-border social issues is compounding relations between Hong Kong people and their mainland cousins at a time of increased tensions between the two sides.
Nowhere Girls is an example of what happens when there is too little competition. It’s a product of the virtual monopoly of the free-to-air market by TVB and ATV. Production values are a casualty of the lack of choices.
Also, it’s a miscalculation of local sensibilities based on the success of two earlier reality shows that have little in common with it.
All three are an attempt at dramatizing social conditions for profit, entertainment, education or all of these.
The problem is when they become too dramatic for their own good.
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