A Chinese reality TV show has been widely criticized for organizing “parent internships,” allowing celebrities to live day in and day out with children who are not their own. The outrage follows the pairing of a 23-year-old man with a 4-year-old girl; the two have become a hit “couple” online.
The 23-year-old Olympic fencer, Dong Li, and his “daughter,” Arale, – a 4-year-old girl whose real name is Cui Yahan – at first struck many viewers as sweet when the pair debuted in the fourth season of Chinese reality show “Dad, Where Are We Going?” The season premiered on Oct. 7 on Hunan TV.
However, the positive reception soon began to sour as the show broadcast increasingly more intimidate scenes between the young man and small girl, such as Dong bathing the 4-year-old. Many viewers also objected to the pair sharing a bed, with the child’s underwear occasionally visible.
Arale said during the TV show that she would like to marry Dong when she grows up, as many young girls would likely say. Dong also joked back during interviews that he would love to have a girlfriend like Arale.
It is unclear whether Dong intended to make jokes or even respond to netizens’ comments, especially after several media outlets released stories about the pair, along with photos showing their intimacy – for example, a kiss on the lips. Some netizens even went so far as to write online fan fiction about Dong and Arale as boyfriend and girlfriend.
On Nov. 18, a fund for the protection of underage girl under the umbrella of the China Foundation of Culture and Arts for Children vented the concerns of many viewers, calling for a stop to publicity surrounding the so-called intern father and daughter. In a post on Sina Weibo, the fund pointed out that the reality show is offering a problematic example for young people, encouraging them to believe that the behavior being depicted is proper.
However, the reality show argued on Nov. 19 that the interactions between Dong and Arale were a result of “purity and beauty,” which are the biggest charms of the reality series. The show’s management argued that the introduction of an “intern father” in the latest season is intended to educate young parents, many of who are around the same age as the celebrities on the show.
The show insisted that it had followed basic rules to protect underage girls, and that Dong’s comments in interviews demonstrated nothing more sinister than a father’s love. While the production promised to be more careful in the future, its response still disappointed many netizens.