WHEN IT COMES to reality TV, people are divided into two groups: those who hate it and those who really, really hate it. But the ratings show that both groups watch it.
So I was not surprised to get a call from someone trying to dream up yet another new reality show. What did surprise me was the theme. “Asian-style weddings,” he said. “That’s the next big thing in the West.”
I was shocked. “You mean week-long ceremonies in which a man and a woman dressed in red stuff cake into each other’s mouths?”
The caller could be heard shaking his head (TV people’s brains rattle slightly within their craniums for reasons we do not have to go into here). “No, the whole thing about not living together before marriage, marrying a stranger and all that,” he said.
Huh? How could conservative Asian traits catch on in the wild, permissive West, where dating starts at birth and even nuns sing and dance on mountaintops?
(And Cedric leaps to snatch the next-to-marry bouquet from the girls.)
A bit of research revealed he was right. One of the new reality shows in the US is Hitch or Ditch. The TV presenter descends upon a couple who are “living in sin” (to use the scientific term) and challenges them to split or get married. It’s exactly like a visit from a member of the Sharia religious police, except for the miniskirt, blonde hair, lipstick, and TV crew.
The couple are then driven to their own wedding. The cameras zoom in on their faces as a minister asks them whether they want to get married. Some do, some don’t, but everybody involved cries copiously, which qualifies this as high quality television.
Fox TV has a show in the making which is even more Asian. It’s called I Married a Stranger. The TV producers marry off two people who don’t know each other and then follow them with cameras on honeymoon as they learn about each other.
Their questions tend to be rather basic.
“So, what’s your name?”
“Did we just do what I think we did?”
“What sex are you?”
“Will you murder the producer or shall I?”
Anyway, my caller wanted additional odd angles about Asian weddings so that he could offer rival US TV networks similar ideas. “Asians sometimes marry dead people,” I said. “And I don’t mean the Anna Nicole Smith thing about marrying a nearly dead person. I mean an actual dead person.”
By chance, an incident happened in Malaysia recently which illustrated this principle. A wedding was held in Segamat, Malaysia, in which both bride and groom were dead. A family decided to marry their ghost (a deceased family member) to another spirit. They managed to find a girl with the right qualities, ie, she was also dead. The wedding was apparently lovely, and the honeymoon was cheap, since no plane tickets had to be actually purchased. I heard about this from reader Melanie Steeven in Kuala Lumpur, who said: “Asians will be Asians.”
But it struck me that the I Married a Stranger show might not sell in Asia, where it’s too ordinary: people are regularly forced to marry strangers.
For conservative Asians, they need to change the angle to be more Western: I Married Someone I Knew. Sounds exciting, right?