Body shaming jokes prevalent on TV game shows

By Dang Khoa   November 5, 2022 | 05:22 pm PT
Body shaming jokes prevalent on TV game shows
MC Tran Thanh (L) mimics singer Duc Phuc's appearance on "The Masked Singer". Photo courtesy of the game show
Body shaming has become the name of the game on national TV with reality shows depending on it to boost ratings.

MC Tran Thanh faced some chastisement for being rude about singer Duc Phuc’s appearance in episode 15 of the show "The Masked Singer" aired on October 22.

When host Ngo Kien Huy asked the judges what mask they would like to wear, Thanh interrupted Duc Phuc, a fellow judge, saying: "Looking at Duc Phuc's teeth, I think it will be fitting for him to be a beaver."

He went on to mimic Phuc's smile, baring his teeth.

Thanh's action and comment acted opprobrium almost immediately, with many slamming him for picking on Phuc and insulting him to humor the audience in the studio as well as TV viewers.

On social media, netizens said Thanh's comedic style was not charming and cannot be dismissed as polite fun. Many said his "impulsive" behavior will promote rudeness and indirectly affect many people who have similar physical attributes as Phuc.

This is not the first time Thanh was using physical appearance to crack a joke. "Your body reeks of silicone," he told transgender model and singer Huong Giang in a game show.

In Rap Viet, another show, he said he had a half-eaten dumpling backstage and would’t mind giving it to contestant Yuno BigBoi, who weighs over 110 kg. He went further, asking: "How can someone weighing over 100kg be on stage?" "Do you eat normal portions like other people?" "Remind me again, how much do you weigh?"

Thanh isn't the only one dissing others' physical appearances to evoke laughter on game shows.

MC Truong Giang asked actress Nguyen Kieu Cam Tho, whose stage name is Puka, which football club she plays for, alluding to her "manly calves." In another show, he and actress Nam Thu said Mac Van Khoa and Lam Vy Da were "the ugliest male and female comedians in the industry, but they can still win audiences' hearts with their chars."

The frequency with which physical attributes are being commented or mocked to make people laugh on game shows has prompted concern that humor is being used to cover up body shaming.

Dinh Hung, a TV producer, told the Dan Tri newspaper that many game show producers don't edit out controversial parts to boost viewership ratings and to get more people to talk about their program.

"However, spectators tend to tune off and turn their backs on game shows inciting the audience to react by insulting someone’s physique," he said.

Many people are saying that the habit of making fun of people's bodies to get claps and cheers shows that MCs and comedians lack creativity and professionalism.

They say public figures have the responsibility to promote positivity, be mindful of their actions and words and set an example against rudeness and bullying.

People have also remarked that body-shaming comments that seem harmless show a lack of civility in Vietnamese culture that is getting more pronounced by the day.

Following the strong public backlash, Phuc's publicist said the singer wasn't bothered and doesn't hold any grudge against Thanh.

Many other performers, like Khoa and Da, have said they find the jokes made about their appearance funny and do not feel the need to defend themselves or speak up.

However, sociologists say that victims' silence does not imply agreement.

"There are several reasons why a person remains silent after they are mocked for their appearance. Only the body-shamed victims know to what extent they have been harmed," said Trinh Hoa Binh, director of the Center for Public Opinion Studies under the Vietnam Institute of Sociology.

He said that jokes about someone's appearance, whether they come from famous individuals or normal folks for comic relief, should be avoided because they can be hurtful and have long-term negative impacts, especially when it’s done on TV.

According to psychologists, the consequences of "body shaming" are severe, causing victims to lose confidence, become pessimistic and unsure about themselves and even lead to mental health problems.

Singer Hai Yen, who has been heavily criticized and mocked for gaining weight, was dismayed about the "brutal abuse."

She said: "People ask me why I didn't try to land appearances on more TV shows but they don't know that impresarios reject me outright, claiming that they prefer beautiful, sexy singers over good ones.

"Audiences don't want to see a judge or a special guest who looks chubby on TV. Several fashion designers have refused to collaborate with me because I am overweight."

She said she became depressed, suffered from poor self-esteem, and didn't dare attend public events or speak about her suffering with anyone.

Meanwhile, MC Thanh has been unusually quiet about calls for him to apologize to Phuc. He continues to host and appear regularly on TV shows.

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