Chinese Viewers Relate to the Cupcake Dream

An October 25th, 2013 post to Foreign Policy's Tea Leaf Nation explores why the Warner Brothers produced sitcom, 2 Broke Girls, is the most popular U.S. sitcom in mainland China.

While China's Youku (think YouTube with more TV and movies) offers a great number of series and films that originate in the U.S., the sitcom about two 20-something women - waiting tables at a New York diner while saving to open their own cupcake shop - has struck a chord in mainland China, racking up more than 80 million views.

In the U.S., 2 Broke Girls may be best known as a popular (around 20 million viewers watched the premiere on CBS on Sept. 19th, 2011 and the show regularly attracts over 10 million viewers each week) show... that has had more than its share of complaints to the FCC (e.g., a Korean character played by Han Lee who conforms to racist stereotypes, "vulgar language and inappropriate sexual references," charges of the show being "soft porn" and overuse of the word "vagina").

But according to Liz Carter in Tea Leaf Nation, many mainland Chinese viewers don't just watch 2 Broke Girls for the provocative comedy... They're fans "because they can empathize with the characters, who work hard for low pay. In 2012, the average Chinese took home a little less than $4,000 of income, according to official figures. One fan commented on Weibo, China’s Twitter, that she wanted to be like Max and Caroline. “Although they are poor,” she wrote, “They work hard together to achieve a shared dream.’” 

The entrepreneurial spirit of young women - navigating a tough urban world with sarcasm and optimism - while striving for the independence that money can buy - is apparently a theme that resonates inside China: "‘I don’t just watch 2 Broke Girls for fun,” one viewer explained on Weibo. “I am studying the spirit with which they pursue their dream. At the end of every episode, when they count how much they’ve saved, I feel an indescribable positive energy. The girl who grew up rich can pick herself back up even though she lost all her money. The girl who grew up poor still has a positive outlook and sharp tongue.” The viewer concluded by asking, rhetorically, “Why on earth shouldn’t I pursue the life that I want to live?’”

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