This paper examines changing representations of women in Chinese television dramas since the early 1990s and interprets them within a framework of global socialist media cultures, considering both domestic developments and transnational trends. Drawing on the analysis of three selected dramas, it traces the trajectory of televised femininity from exemplary socialist worker-citizens devoted to family and community, to more individualized middle-class urbanites. It is tempting to see this transformation as an outcome of China's integration into the global capitalist economy, the attendant retreat of the party-state from the private realm, and the infusion of Western cultural gender ideals. Yet this interpretation downplays important continuities, and misses intriguing parallels with TV dramas produced in socialist Eastern Europe. The argument pays particular attention to the enduring appeal of the socialist-style superwoman who shoulders the double burden of a professional career and unpaid domestic work while also acting as a discerning citizen-consumer.
A Socialist Superwoman for the New Era: Chinese Television and the Changing Ideals of Femininity
Yingzi Wang is a doctoral researcher at the School of Social Sciences, Loughborough University, UK. Her PhD research examines the transformation of Chinese television in the post-reform era through a temporal comparison of prime-time Chinese TV dramas. This research maps changes and continuities in the narrative content and forms of Chinese TV dramas resulting from intersecting political, economic, social, and cultural forces in post-reform China. Wang's research interests include television entertainment, political communication, the politics of media representations, propaganda, and gender studies.
Sabina Mihelj is a professor of media and cultural analysis at Loughborough University, UK. Her research examines media's involvement in shaping cultural processes and practices across historical and contemporary contexts, with a particular focus on cultural belonging and exclusion, public culture, and memory. She has authored more than sixty journal articles and book chapters as well as three books: Media Nations: Communicating Belonging and Exclusion in the Modern World (Palgrave, 2011), Central and Eastern European Media in Comparative Perspective (Ashgate, 2012), and From Media Systems to Media Cultures (Cambridge University Press, 2018).
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Yingzi Wang, Sabina Mihelj; A Socialist Superwoman for the New Era: Chinese Television and the Changing Ideals of Femininity. Feminist Media Histories 1 July 2019; 5 (3): 36–59. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/fmh.2019.5.3.36
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