Where are we going, dad?

October 2022 – Published in Global Media and China, written together with Arjen Nauta, Qiong Xu and Yiu Fai Chow, this article engages with the audience responses to the Chinese reality TV show “Where are we going, dad?”


In 2013, Hunan Television, one of China’s most successful provincial satellite television stations, debuted a reality TV series featuring celebrity fathers and their children. A localized version of a Korean-developed format, Where Are We Going, Dad (baba quna’er) brought dads and kids together to different locations in the countryside, usually very remote and exotic, to complete certain assignments. This inquiry takes Where Are We Going, Dad as its focus; it seeks to understand how and how far notions of fatherhood are being constructed and circulated in contemporary China. It does so by way of audiences. While the show was evidently configuring and promoting their versions of fatherhood, we wanted to find out what viewers thought of the show, and of fatherhood. Located in the juncture of fatherhood and reality show studies, this exploratory inquiry identifies three themes from the conversations of four families in urban China. First, they articulate the difficulty of being a good father in a rapidly changing China and the concomitant longing to a return of traditional Chinese fatherhood. A second recurring theme concerns the ways in which they accept this tension between tradition and modernity. Finally, they demonstrate savviness in their viewing of the show. We build on the three themes to argue that such reality shows do impact on Chinese families’ understanding of fatherhood, but their savvy viewership points to the limit of such media impact.

You can find the article here.

This article is part of the ChinaCreative project.