World of Weibo

How to lie to parents

The Bilibili challenge

In an era of online learning and lockdown boredom it’s not surprising that Chinese high school students have been looking for outlets to vent their frustrations.

They seem to have found what they are looking for thanks to an online challenge on streaming platform Bilibili, where contributors have been competing to tell ever more egregious lies in front of their parents. The widely-forwarded challenge has now drawn over 100 million views as people flock online to watch how parents react to their children’s blatant and usually boastful deceptions.

The challenge is simple: students invite their parents to make a video with them that’s disguised as a school assignment in which the school pupils reel off a list of falsehoods and bogus achievements. The goal is to capture the real-time reactions of their flabbergasted parents, some of whom look too shocked to speak, while the more honest refute their children’s whoppers, much to the delight of viewers.

In some videos students have claimed to wake up at five o’clock every morning to memorise 200 phrases in Chinese, then go for 3km runs, make breakfast for their parents, and finish up by doing the housework. One student put her father on the spot by bragging that he had taught himself English and Japanese. Then, as he sat stunned, she promptly invited him to demonstrate his linguistic mastery. The only word he could offer in response in either language was ‘Hi’.

One viewer commented: “My laughter was so loud it must have reached the neighbouring schoolyard.” Most videos end in the entire family collapsing into hysterics, but some parents are so outraged by the lies being told that they have to leave the room.

One girl fibbed that she helped her mother at the family butcher’s shop at the crack of dawn every morning, to which the mother cried: “When have I ever seen you at half-past five?” and left the room.

Some viewers have found the reactions so relatable – in reference to their own parents – that they say they prove the truth of the Chinese idiom: ‘The same world, the same parents’.

Psychologists have also highlighted the fad’s value as a social experiment that offers a choice between telling the truth and saving face; after all, many of the parents have been led to believe the video is for school credit, and thus their decision either to play along or to expose the nonsense of their kid’s bravado says something about whether they prioritise grades over honesty. Much of the humour, of course, comes from the manner in which parents react as their offspring reel off their travesties of the truth.

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