Chinese Dating and the Reign of Terrorbots

Has anyone else been watching If You Are The One recently? I know that Jess got herself hooked on Come Date With Me, which is a gentler, more romanticised Bachelorette-a-like, but I much prefer this little gem. The Chinese know exactly how to host a dating show – a brutal, humiliating ordeal in which a terrified man is publicly emasculated by a group of beautiful women. Guaranteed entertainment!

Basically, each male contestant walks out in front of a studio audience, a panel of “guests”, and a huge semi-circle of twenty-four beautiful young girls standing at brightly lit podiums. He’s hoping that at least one of these women will give him a date. Just one date, that’s the only obligation. But almost immediately, from the moment he says hello, they are allowed at any time to press their button, darken their podium with a devastating buzzer sound and let him know that they have absolutely no interest in him.

Some guys lose 95% of the girls in the first thirty seconds, and the look on their face is just priceless. For those that survive a little longer, everyone watches a series of videos about the contestant and his life/occupation/family/etc., and the girls are allowed to ask him some questions at random. Often they’re bizarre questions, or not even questions at all – some girls will simply use their microphone time to highlight the fact that they like dimples, have a business degree or can play seven instruments, somehow framing it into a weak sort of inquiry at the very end.

 

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Yes, they’re all discerning women just brimming with intelligent ideas.

 

The male contestant is asked to secretly pick his favourite girl as soon as he enters the studio. Having only laid eyes on them for about fifteen seconds, it’s a fairly superficial choice, mind you. At the very end, if he somehow still has a girl or two in play, they’re asked to come and stand in front of him – as is the poor girl whom he originally selected as his favourite, whether she has struck him off already or not.

Now he has to choose which to take a shot at. Basically, he has a choice between a girl who is somehow inextricably intrigued enough to consider dating him, even after watching three thoroughly awful videos about his life, and a girl he thought was hot when he entered the room, but who has already clearly indicated she’s not interested. Wouldn’t you believe it, most guys will still ask out the entirely disinterested beauty and then appear shocked and humiliated when she again rejects them. The genuinely interested girl is also humiliated, of course, which just adds to the spectacle.

What does this teach us about men, ladies? Nothing you weren’t already aware of, I’m sure.

The weirdest part of the show, though, is the video in which the contestant’s family, friends and colleagues all give testimonials about his character. In a Western dating show, this would be an opportunity for his support base to talk him up and exaggerate all his best qualities – to throw him a lifeline, basically. But not in China, oh no. Here, it’s all about brutal honesty; a guy’s best friend will literally look at the camera and say, “This guy is a domineering, selfish arsehole who really desperately needs a woman to be his humble subservient, so hey – date him, okay?” Then his mother or sister will add, “And he’s been so sad and alone his whole life…” (big fucking surprise) “…so pleeeaase cook and clean for him and give him a child?”

Seriously, I’ve never laughed so much at someone else’s torment. But there’s a slide whistle sound effect in there, so it’s okay to laugh.

And screw these Western dating shows that spend days and weeks stretching out their eliminations just for one person to find love; If You Are The One, with its unflinching efficiency, can see three or four guys publicly rejected in a single episode. I guess in a country with a population of more than a billion, there just isn’t that much time to spend on each suitor – if you haven’t fallen in love with him after seven minutes, ditch that loser. Move on.

Beyond its absurdity, though, the show does offer a startling insight into Chinese values and culture. The first card each contestant lays on the table every time is his career and the money he makes, and it’s usually the very first thing the girls ask about. Ambition, a drive to succeed, achieving prosperity and honouring one’s family all feature heavily – despite the show’s bubblegum tone, its contestants all get straight to the point. Talking about your favourite movies or the stuff you do for fun is not going to convince these imperious sirens to give you the time of day.

If You Are The One airs on SBS 2, Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 7.30pm. You can also watch previous episodes at SBS On Demand.

 

And speaking of abject brutality...

And speaking of abject brutality…

 

I spent some time playing Warframe this morning, a free-to-play third-person shooter developed by Digital Extremes. According to the terms and conditions I gave a cursory glance to, it’s still in open beta, but considering there are already quite a lot of items for sale in its market for real money, I’d say it’s more or less officially launched.

The Warframes themselves, vaguely insectoid exoskeletal combat suits with different abilities, are fun in theory; I particularly like that each has just four abilities it can use, which keeps them all fairly distinct from each other. There’s the one that shoots fire, the one that shoots lightning, the one that raises the dead, the one that causes reality to collapse on itself – all your bases are covered. Constructing them’s a pain, but I’m not nearly enamoured enough with the game so far to spend actual money on it. You’ve gotta romance me a little first, Digital Extremes. I’ll give you seven minutes.

The co-op’s quite seamless, though, where I’ve been able to find it. There weren’t many other players online at first, but more appeared as the morning went on. The levels and tasks – defend this cryo-thing, escort that very important person, sabotage this machine that produces evilness – are all a bit bland and generic from what I’ve seen, but having three other people help you plough through each room is definitely entertaining to let off a little steam.

 

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My biggest criticism so far, something I truly struggled with, is the fact that you start every bloody level by dropping down through a ventilation grill in the ceiling – even when there isn’t a ventilation grill in the ceiling. Seriously, you’ll see a cinematic in which a metal grill falls to the ground, followed by your character, and then when you look up afterwards there’s just a ceiling. No vent. Where the hell did this grill come from then, Digital Extremes?! How did I get here, you duplicitous bastards?! I will not stop in my quest for answers.

It’s not what I’d call a pretty game – it certainly wouldn’t score a date on If You Are The One, for example. But there’s a sort of… fluidity, I guess you’d call it. Perhaps that’s generous. I’m told the game is still radically in flux, and that new features are constantly being added, so I’ll keep an eye on it at the very least. Marvel Heroes was a bit like that, a game that barely interested me at first, but which developed and improved quickly and consistently enough that I kept coming back to it.

 

And now, to finish, a few more marvellous quotes from IYATO (even the acronym sounds Asian).

 

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2 comments

  1. I love this show! Dave introduced me to this gem but I didn’t realise it was available on free-to-air. SBS on demand for me tonight !!

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