A few weeks ago my friends my friends were on a Chinese TV show called “My Man Can” (Which can be watched here), they are the American Girl-Chinese Guy couple. This episode featured 4 intercultural couples competing for a free trip to almost anywhere in the world. The basic premise is that the wives bid how well their husbands can do on a particular challenge, while the husbands have to hope their wives don’t push the goal up too high.
The show ended up taking nearly 4 hours to film, but lead to several interesting insights about how the Chinese view these intercultural marriages.
The most striking was that before the show even started the producers told my friend that they were rooting for them to win, with the implication being that it was really great that a Chinese man had managed to marry an American woman. Two of the other couples were foreign men and Chinese women, so we weren’t surprised when they were eliminated fairly early on. The fourth couple was a Chinese man and a Vietnamese woman, and from my time in Guangxi province, I knew that this was not the type of relationship that other Chinese were jealous of in some ways.
Note: In Guangxi it was not uncommon for farmers to buy a Vietnamese bride if there were no Chinese women in their village willing to marry them.
My friends won the first challenge, which involved the wife throwing balls into a wicker basket that was strapped on the man’s back. When they saw that the second challenge was similar to what they had been practicing they tried to get out to a huge lead. Unfortunately the shows producer stopped them. He actually told them that they would not be allowed to try the second challenge, because it would be too easy for them to win the competition.
On the third challenge my friend ended up competing directly with a much larger Pakistani man in a kind of wrestling match. It only took a few seconds for the crowd of Chinese college students to start chanting “Zhongguo, Jiayou (Let’s Go China!)”. It was an interesting moment of nationalism. The crowd went wild when our friend managed to best the much larger man.
To be honest I was doubly glad to see the Pakistani man and his Chinese wife lose. Out of the four couples, their relationship was the only one that seemed fake. She had essentially married her boss, and behind the scenes seemed disgusted by him. She was more than willing to add additional fat jokes on to what the announcer was saying. The woman also told this incredibly long story (it got cut partially in the episode), that tried to make it sound like her life was very difficult, even though they were richer than most of the people in China. By the end of the night we all felt really bad for the Pakistani guy.
It was interesting to hear comments from the crowd throughout the night about my friends. Many of the boys wondered out loud how exactly he had managed to find a foreign woman who spoke such excellent Chinese (interestingly no one tried to flirt with my black friend who was translating for the American wife’s grandparents). It seemed like marrying a white woman was a goal some of them had in mind after that night.