“Youth With You:” Hard Work Gone to Waste?


Maroon Staff

The third season finale of the survival show “Youth With You” was canceled due to a milk controversy.

Hannah Wang,

On February 18, 2021, the first episode of the third season of “Youth With You” (青春有你) was aired. “Youth With You” (YWY) is a Chinese survival show for people training to debut in a music group and is provided on the network iQIYI. Each year, a season of YWY is held, each time with a new group of trainees that alternate between all female and all male trainees. This year, a hundred nineteen male trainees from a variety of entertainment companies were brought together to participate in the program. 

Throughout the series, there are several group performances and a few elimination rounds too. After the first elimination round, sixty trainees remain; after the second elimination, thirty-five trainees remain; after the third round, twenty trainees remain; and after the final performance, the first nine ranked trainees are chosen to debut in the group. Fans of the show and the trainees get at least one chance to vote for their favorite trainee(s) per day, and these votes contribute to the next ranking and elimination announcements. In this sense, the fans are very involved in the show and the results; a lot of effort is put into supporting the trainees in order to get them to debut. 

Like any other survival show, the tasks and performances require a lot of hard work and effort to complete. After a couple of months of airing, the show was set to have the finale on May 8, 2021. There were twenty trainees left who were preparing to perform live that day, with results of the final debuting group by the end of the finale. “[The trainees] worked so hard for it, and all the fans have been voting and everything,” said Joanna Wang ‘21. It was an extremely anticipated day for hundreds of thousands of fans in China and throughout the world. 

Unfortunately, controversies with the show’s sponsor brought up massive criticism. One of the main sponsors of the show was Mengniu Dairy, a company that produced the flavored milk drink that was continuously being promoted each episode. Along with many other methods, fans were able to earn extra votes, in addition to the one per day, by completing certain tasks. Such ways included having a premium subscription on iQIYI and, well, buying the sponsored drink. On the caps of these drinks, there were QR codes that people could scan to earn extra votes.

Similar methods like this were used in previous seasons; however, this year in early May, a video of fans mass-buying the bottles just for the caps and then dumping the milk into the drain went viral on social media. Especially considering China’s law against food waste and excessive leftovers in order to conserve resources, media and government officials heavily criticized the actions shown. In response, iQIYI was ordered to suspend the filming and production of the show on May 7, but then the finale was officially postponed three days later. Amidst the milk controversy, the front runner, 18-year-old Tony Yu, also left the show due to “health” issues, after allegations over his illegal dual citizenship and some controversial past family actions. 

There were rumors that the show’s finale was secretly filmed on May 8, as many of the trainees were seen leaving the filming site. The debut team was rumored to be named NINEVER and a lineup of the final nine members circulated the internet. However, iQIYI denied the assumption that a debut team was formed and confirmed that the finale was canceled. “This show has such a huge international audience, who is engaging in Chinese culture and consuming Chinese entertainment, and as a result, viewing China in a more positive light,” commented Danielle Kohn ‘21. “And now all of that positive sentiment is gone… I feel like they shouldn’t have done that.” If not only for the sake of the top 19 trainees who made it this far but also for the hard work of the 119 original trainees, fans are hoping that news of a debut team comes soon.