American television fiction is gaining traction among educated urban Chinese youths. Drawing on 29 interviews with fans among college students in Beijing, this article examines a shared perception among these youths that American television is ‘‘real.’’ This perceived realism, which is essential to their viewing pleasure, has two sources: American programming’s textual quality and the Chinese context in which it is consumed. First, US television appeals to Chinese youths because they perceive its topical content and complex characterization as true to life. This perception can be explained by the higher transnational cultural capital of these youths, which renders US programming intellectually more proximate and relevant than domestic programming. Second, the perceived realism must be understood within the socio-cultural context of contemporary urban China. Disillusioned with the largely lackluster domestic television content, and critical of state media regulation and cultural control, Chinese youngsters embrace US television’s relative openness and narrative complexity as more ‘‘real.’’ This study attends to the textual, contextual, as well as emotional aspects of the Chinese fascination with American television. It contributes to the literature on cross-cultural media consumption by demonstrating how perceived realism is both organized by media texts and shaped by consumption contexts.
Cross-cultural media consumption, Perceived realism, Cultural proximity, China, Youths, Television
Film and Media Studies | Sociology of Culture
Poetics: Journal of Empirical Research on Culture, the Media and the Arts
GAO, Yang.(2016). Fiction as reality: Chinese youths watching American television. Poetics: Journal of Empirical Research on Culture, the Media and the Arts, 54, 1-13.
Available at: http://ink.library.smu.edu.sg/soss_research/2132
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.