TV Romance and Popular Cultural Mood: The Chi Li Phenomenon
This article takes TV romance and the "Chi Li phenomenon" as broad contexts for thinking about contemporary socio-cultural transitions and changes in the popular cultural mood in urban China. The TV serial adaptation of Chi Li's best-selling novella Coming and Going (Lailai wangwang, 1998) will provide a looking-glass through which to examine how the urban mainstream engages in cultural contestations and negotiations at multiple levels, along with shifts in ideological situations and social patterns. The phenomenal success of the TV romance is the result of a new ideological situation in the late 1990s, when alternative socio-economic structures and transnational cultural influences have come to play dominant roles in reshaping private passions and the popular psyche of the urban mainstream. The romantic relationships in these soap operas simultaneously act as both allegories symbolizing the contradictions of a socio-economic system and ideology in transition and as (semi-)realistic representations of actual new social practices, values, and morals that are appearing among urbanites living through this transition.