"I would rather cry in a BMW" is a quotation that became an online sensation in the Peoples Republic of China in 2010. The old, long-familiar phrase was made famous by Ma Nuo, a 20-year-old female contestant on the television show Fei Cheng Wu Rao. The line was in response to a question by an unemployed suitor who asked if Ma would "ride a bicycle with him" on a date. The series of events have been summed up in the media with the quip "I would rather cry in a BMW than smile on a bicycle."
In interviews after the show, Ma pointedly denied that she is a "gold digger" – saying that she "just wanted to reject in a creative way." Nonetheless, the phrase has made its rounds across the Chinese blogosphere, and has become emblematic of the culture of materialism and lack of authenticity that now allegedly permeates Chinese society, particularly in the process of dating and courtship. Social commentator Chen Zhigang remarked, "Does Ma Nuo only speak for herself? No. Her opinion resonates with youth; they have grown up in a society that is quickly accumulating material wealth. They are snobbish. They worship money, cars and houses because the highly developing economy has made them do so."
The blunt nature of the statement works well in the dating shows format, and is not the first controversial phrase to arise out of Fei Cheng Wu Rao. It was cited by critics as a window to the "degradation of Chinese social values," and even drew the attention of government censors, who eventually forced producers to re-design the format of the show to be more professional and clean of morally questionable content. A Global Times commentary remarked that the obsession with BMWs is symbolic of a larger national trend that measures a persons success solely by money rather than factors such as "knowledge, taste, kindness or vision." The phrase also earned notoriety for Ma, whose purported pictures began surfacing all over the internet despite strong dislike from the public.
Professor Jinhua Zhao of the University of British Columbia referred to the quote to allude to trends in the last decade of Beijing residents opting to get rid of their bikes in favour of cars as a mode of transport, citing the social perception that, "bikes are now for losers."