Chinese women’s makeover shows: idealised femininity, self-presentation and body maintenance
Since the beginning of the twenty-first century, the Chinese television industry has witnessed the rise of a new form of television programme, Chinese Women’s Makeover Shows. These programmes have quickly become a great success and have received enormous attention from growing audiences. The shows are themed on educating and demonstrating to the audiences the information and methods needed to beautify their faces and bodies and consume products accordingly. The shows are different from earlier Chinese fashion television programmes in format, and are also different from western makeover shows that have personal transformations of external appearance as their subject. The importance of adopting these shows as a research topic lies in the fact that the shows not only represent the images of contemporary Chinese women and propose a series of standards that a modern Chinese woman is advised to abide by in terms of body presentation and appearance, but also reflect the characteristics of Chinese female consumers and the rising consumer culture of China in general. It concerns the challenges and anxieties that have been brought to every woman in China. The thesis starts with an overview analysis of this flourishing genre of television programme and outlines its status quo, format and production techniques. In the following three chapters, it takes three years (2010-2012) of episodes of the three most popular Chinese Women’s Makeover Shows, Queen, Pretty Women, and I am a Great Beauty as the main samples for analysis, aiming to scrutinise 1) the idealised femininity represented in the shows and the cultural context from which the features derive; 2) the self-presentation promoted as appropriate in the shows and how it relates to the reality of Chinese women’s daily life; 3) the body maintenance that the shows urge upon their audiences as regards consumption for the female body and to what extent this epitomises and functions in constructing a consumer society with Chinese characteristics. The thesis intends to fill a gap in academic research with a systematic analysis of the prevailing phenomenon of the Chinese Women’s Makeover Shows and an in-depth study concerning the shows’ meaning-making process within their cultural context.