TV ad against effeminate men backfires

Society & Culture

Yesterday, Anhui TV released a video ad for its new reality show, The Journey of Youth (青春的征途 qīngchūn de zhēngtú), where six teenagers born after 1995 travel around the country and complete mental and physical challenges. In the clip, the six participants, four boys and two girls, take turns to introduce themselves. At the end of each one’s segment, the teen says, “I’m from the post-’95 generation and I object to niangpao (娘炮 niángpào).”

Niangpao is a derogatory term for effeminate men. Watch the ad below:

It’s very unlikely that these teens volunteered to speak out about men with feminine qualities on national television. One thing for sure is that it’s the kind of message that the show’s production team tries to convey to its audience, and it echos the anti-effeminate sentiment (in Chinese) in a few op-eds published by Chinese state media this year, including Xinhua News Agency and the People’s Daily. In these articles, authors often lambaste “fresh young meat” (小鲜肉 xiǎoxiānròu), a slang term describing young male celebrities with slender figures and feminine qualities. These soft-faced young male stars are blamed for subverting gender norms and adversely impacting young people.

Just as such opinion pieces have backfired badly in the past, this new ad has been widely criticized on Chinese social media for its implicit sexism and homophobia. “Every person is entitled to be just the way they are. As long as I don’t get in the way of others, you have no right to tell me what I should be,” a Weibo user commented (in Chinese).

The controversial ad may have also sparked a boycott against the show, which is slated to premiere later this month. In a protest video produced by an anonymous internet user, the creator re-edited the original ad — the new version now has participants say, “I am niangpao and I object to The Journey of Youth.”