Illustration: Peter C. Espina/GT
Matchmaking website baihe.com has come under fire recently over its latest commercial that urges singles to marry to please their senior family members. The advert, with the catchphrase "because of love, do not wait," shows an attractive young girl who finally gives in after years of nagging from her aging grandmother, concluding she cannot waste her time "being picky any more."
During the 30-second commercial, when the youthful granddaughter, wearing an academic gown, wants to share the happiness of graduation with her grandmother, the elderly woman only asks "Married yet?" When the granddaughter, later a vigorous career woman, visits her grandmother on her sickbed in the hospital, she is again asked "Married yet?"
The climax of the advert comes when the granddaughter wearing a bridal gown and flanked by the groom she met on baihe.com finally brings relief to her ailing grandmother by saying "I'm married!"
The advert quickly infuriated tens of thousands of online users, leading them to boycott the site. Many condemned the advert's attempts to blackmail young people with filial piety and the outdated marital perception it delivers that children should get married for their families, even if it means being forced to.
"So many years after liberation, can't we just do away with feudal-style forced marriages?" one netizen commented.
An advertisement designer surnamed Gao that works for baihe.com defended the advert, saying it is based on the true story of one of their registered members.
The advert indeed reflects certain reality in China. The Spring Festival holidays are torture for many who are single. One of my female friends told me that she was criticized for still being single at the age of 29 during her reunion with her family. According to her relatives, being filial is not only a matter of supporting aging parents economically, but also alleviating parents' worries over their single kids.
Chinese parents are known for fretting about their kids their whole life, especially against the backdrop of the one-child policy. They take making their kids settled down and have babies as earlier as possible a responsibility.
Meanwhile, in a Confucian society where family bonds are highly valued, young people of marriageable age who are still single are viewed as freaks, leading both them and their parents to be placed under a lot of pressure.
Other ludicrous advertisements have also been criticized as promoting improper and distorted values in China. But Baihe's commercial has caused an unprecedented backlash among China's younger generation, demonstrating their discontent with parents forcing them to marry and the critical social environment when it comes to their personal life.
Some say the advert, which may have been simply designed to take the advantage of China's respect toward the elderly and focus on family responsibility, has been overly interpreted. However, without a doubt it has touched a highly sensitive nerve among Chinese singles and caused an unexpected revolt.
"Staying single and marrying late" are becoming more of a trend in today's society. An eternal theme of human kind is that we chase true love and look forward to a long life with our beloved.
China's youth wants marriage to be about individual freedom and love. I think it's best if we just give them some room to breathe.
The author is a reporter with the Global Times. firstname.lastname@example.org