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Transient Queerness and Spectacular Misogyny on Chinese TV: Female Gender and Sexuality in Your Face Sounds Familiar and the 2015 Spring Festival Gala

Mon, June 22, 4:05 to 6:00pm, North Building, Floor: 8th Floor, N802


Along with the increasingly complicated political economy of the Chinese television industry since the 1990s (Bai 2015; Bai and Song 2015), Chinese reality shows produced by provincial TV stations have crafted a playground for queer performances and viewership (Yang 2014; Yang and Bao 2012). Meanwhile, the structural hierarchies and inequalities of gender, sexuality, race, and class rooted in state ideology are still prevalent in mainstream TV programs produced by CCTV, which remains the mouthpiece of Chinese political forces (Hong and Lv and Zou 2009; Lu 2009). Bearing on the intersection of feminist media studies, Chinese TV studies, and gender and queer theories, this study explores the gender and sexual performances of two popular Chinese TV actresses, Jia Ling and Qu Ying, in the Chinese reality show Your Face Sounds Familiar (Hunan Satellite TV, 2012–2014) and the 2015 Spring Festival Gala (CCTV). Paying particular attention to the gender ambiguity, queer moments, and cross-dressing impersonations of these actresses, we show how queer performances, while momentarily gratifying the audience’s desire for queer media images, are simultaneously enacted and conditioned by Chinese hetero-patriarchal and homonormative ideals. Considering both contemporary urban Chinese “female troubles,” such as “manly lady” (nvhanzi), “goddess” (nvshen), and “leftover women”, and Chinese feminist groups’ online campaign protesting the Gala’s gender discrimination, we identify and further problematize the socio-familial imperatives and gender hegemonies that are promoted and sustained by the Gala skit featuring the two actresses.