Some of the most infamous Chinese TV character clichés, as defined by netizens

Mainstream television relies on stereotypes and Chinese TV is no exception: Women are always victims, waiting to be rescued by men; intellectuals are usually pedantic, dull, or laughable; and fuerdai, or the “second-generation rich,” are shallow, condescending bullies. Here are some of the most infamous Chinese TV character clichés, as defined by netizens.

Mary Sue (玛丽苏)

The popular Mary Sue (Mǎlìsū) refers to the idealized female lead: She is beautiful, virtuous, and has it all. Men swoon over her, women scheme against or idolize her, and while she herself would never stoop to plotting, it seems that wealth, power, and fame simply fall into her lap.

The name comes from the 15-year-old heroine of Paula Smith’s 1973 fan fic “A Trekkie’s Tale,” in which Lieutenant Mary Sue becomes the youngest, smartest person to graduate from Starfleet Academy. It was originally meant to satirize unrealistic characters in Star Trek fan fiction.

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author Sun Jiahui (孙佳慧)

Sun Jiahui is a freelance writer and former editor at The World of Chinese. She writes about Chinese language, society and culture, and is especially passionate about sharing stories of China's ancient past with a wider audience. She has been writing for TWOC for over six years, and pens the Choice Chengyu column.

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