“I have no words,” reads one review of new Netflix show Bling Empire on Chinese-language ratings platform Douban. “More so, because I somehow binged all the episodes.”
Netflix may not be officially available in China, but that doesn’t stop many of its hit shows making it into the country. Clever VPN use, file-sharing sites, and simply clips ripped to social media platforms mean that the likes of Tiger King and The Queen’s Gambit make it to some Chinese screens, especially to those owned by people following international TV.
And when a show comes with added relevance for the Chinese market, you can bet social media will be talking about it. That’s the case with Bling Empire, the real life Crazy Rich Asians that “follows a wildly wealthy group of Asian and Asian-American friends (and frenemies) in Los Angeles,” per the official blurb.
“While their days and nights are filled with fabulous parties and expensive shopping sprees, don’t let the glitz and glamour fool you,” continues the Netflix promo. “Between running multi-billion dollar businesses and traveling the world, these friends are as good at keeping secrets as they are at spilling them. And there is certainly no shortage of secrets.”
The show hasn’t picked up a massive audience in China just yet, but those who have seen it have plenty to say about it.
“Given the restrictions on showing off wealth in China, you can take a look at how those with Chinese heritage and the Chinese fuerdai [second generation rich kids] play in LA instead,” reads one recommendation of the show on Chinese social media site Weibo.
“This contemporary farce of retrogression is too funny,” writes entertainment reviewer Hasegawa Hosaku, who has 2.5 million fans on the same platform.
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Bling Empire‘s Asian-American cast features personalities with varied backgrounds, but Taiwan-born Christine Chiu has attracted particular attention for audiences in China. Partly that’s down to her explaining in the trailer that her father-in-law is the “24th direct descendant of the Song Dynasty,” an empire that ruled over a large swathe of what is today China from 960-1279 CE. It’s also partly due to the show’s focus on her trials with fertility and surrogacy, an especially hot topic on Chinese social media in recent weeks.
Over on Douban, where the show has garnered an average rating of 5.6 out of 10, a meme featuring a photo of Chiu’s husband next to an ancient image of an emperor can be found on the discussion board in amongst questions over the use of penis pumps and supposed plastic surgery before and after photos of the cast.
A Bling Empire meme on Douban
“I’ve NEVER realized it’s a reality show until I googled,” writes one commenter in English on Douban. “Lots of absurdity as how Chinese culture was misinterpreted in the show.”
“I rolled my eyes to the sky at the beginning of the first episode,” reads another review on the site that rails against the show being seen as representative of “Asian culture”: “Just call it Rich People in LA, don’t label it as ‘Asian culture.’
“Sick and tired of this bullshit,” the review continues, before adding, “If a sugar daddy from the show wants to sponsor my tuition and living expenses, I can change this review to 5 stars and completely alter the content, no problem.”
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