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ABSTRACT. Recently the romantic relationship between an older woman and a younger man has been a popular topic in the Chinese media landscape. This type of relationship is basically represented as something new, modern, and radical, engaged in by many celebrities as well as creating media celebrities out of some ordinary people. The media portrayals seem to add another alternative in the discourse of heterosexual relationships, especially conventional heterosexual marriage. This paper is a critical content analysis from the perspective of media studies. The analysis is conducted by drawing scholarly works from sociological, feminist, economics and gender studies, and comparing the representation of the relationship in different historical eras in China, Hollywood films since 20th century, and East Asian media since the 1990s with those in recent popular Chinese television. Focusing on recent popular Chinese television dramas, I examine how the media portrayals signal and celebrate a new form of relationship and marriage, yet still strongly reinforce the male-dominant status in romantic relationships. The representation of the older woman–younger man relationship raises some novelty in marriage and life in current China. However, because the current studies can’t provide a true understanding of age in relationships, the media heavily emphasizes patriarchal values, and as a genre, the plots of romance often conform to conventional views on gender roles, the relationship between an older woman and a younger man has always been a myth in the cultural discourse. Despite the many Chinese TV programs focusing on the older woman–younger man relationship, its popular image neither challenges traditional gender roles nor the form of marriage and relationship in mainstream Chinese culture. The representation apparently is more interested in how an older woman is better than the younger girls because of her willingness and effort to protect the dominant family values and gender roles and her innate kindness. The moment that the older woman truly wins her love and proves her values is the moment that the heroine reinforces the vision of womanhood well established in the mainstream culture and protects the values of and man’s dominance in heterosexual relationships, marriage, and family. pp. 356–373

Keywords: Chinese media; older woman and younger man; romantic relationships; gender roles; age and relationship; patriarchal values

How to cite: Wen, Huike (2015), “Radical or Conventional? – Portrayal in Chinese Media of the Relationship between an Older Woman and a Younger Man,” Journal of Research in Gender Studies 5(2): 356–373.

Received 3 November 2015 • Received in revised form 14 December 2015
Accepted 14 December 2015 • Available online 25 December 2015

HUIKE WEN
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Willamette University

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