Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Hooters and the cultural deficit

A moment of silence for the perished.

Now something more light-hearted.

If you go to the Beijing Olympics this summer, you can not only taste a slice of China but also find comfort in...hooters, which opened last year. Where else can you find a lame place where waitresses dancing to 80s pop songs like YMCA? Not even in America.

The fact that Beijing has the Hooters and the Hooters hasn't met much objection is not surprising, given the extremely pro-business regulation there and not much else. To quote some Chinese hooters girl, "In China, there aren't many feminists". Besides, sexual content in restaurant and entertainment business isn't exactly new in China's homegrown industry. In fact, I recently find that China has legitimized soft-porn industry too, only under the disguise of fine art nude photography.

A somewhat more interesting question is why the homegrown businesses have to feel the need of keeping sexual undertone somewhat underground but the foreign incorporated firm can trumpet sexuality (We don't find any 奶子饭店,do we?). Well, that requires smart marketing, self regulation and corporate standard. Like many things in China, there's regulation swap in work - yielding profits to foreign firms in exchange for better regulation and business practice.

I'm a bit surprised that Hooters is able to marketing itself as "American Spirit". But maybe not. The so called cultural deficit has been huge for China. To get a grip on this, you only needs to walk into a Chinese book store and an American Barns&Nobles. The amount of translated American publications along with its original version is huge. The same can't be said about Chinese books. (Hong Huang mentioned about this also in her recent msnbc interview.)

So the real interesting question is: Are they really able to understand the U.S. through watching American TV soaps and going to Hooters? On the second thought, maybe not, seeing how many people think Sex and City represents typical America. Shanghaiist has a very interesting, though a bit old, interview of a Chinese college hooters girl who was encouraged to worked there by her parents, who though hooters represent American value of "passionate and friendly", like..."mayflowers". It confirms also the genius-ness of South Park. Just like in Raisin, customers who want to flirt are encouraged to "come back".

At least, unlike Hooters in America, Hooters Beijing doesn't have DVDs of hooter girls for sale. Then again, they are unlikely to find so many double-Ds in China too. In other words, not much "hooters"*.

*hooters is American slang for breasts.

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  1. Damn, I was in Beijing last summer and didn't know about Hooters. That would be a real trip to see in China. The only two questions I have are: What is the Chinese name for Hooters? And are the hot wings any good?

  2. Someone can correct me on this, but I don't think they have an official Chinese name. Some Chinese refers to it as MAO TOU YING - owl. As to the hot wings, hmmmm, you don't go to a hooters for hot wings, do you? Just kidding.

    But I do find hot wings in Chinese KFC far superior to the American KFC. Maybe just my personal taste...