Could This Be The Reason The Sacred Riana Was a Hit in Asia But Not America?
Last week, horror magician and viral sensation The Sacred Riana was eliminated from America’s Got Talent, to the shock of many viewers. She wasn’t even on the Dunkin’ Save bubble with a chance to stay, just bottom 4 in votes with an unceremonious exit.
What made this even more surprising to some was that, prior to coming on the show, Riana won a season of Asia’s Got Talent. How could an act make it all the way to the finals and win on one Got Talent program, and not even make it out of the first round of live shows on another?
It seems like differences in culture could be the answer to this question. Riana hails from Indonesia, an Asian country, and as such, her brand of magic naturally falls closer to Asian customs in the art more than American ones. For example, American audiences and illusionists are generally used to magic acts in which the tricks themselves are the most impressive thing about the performance. In Asia, however, the focus is usually on the “plot” of the act (in Riana’s case, being a girl possessed by a spirit) and the illusions are built into the performance when the storyline has been all laid out. Many American’s who watched her act didn’t find the magic particularly impressive and fund that disappointing, but I bet a lot of Asian fans loved the act because of the story.
Some viewers declined to vote for Riana because her act “wasn’t scary enough”. This may be an indication of another cultural clash: American horror versus Asian horror. While a lot of American horror is based on shocking and disgusting imagery and jump-scares, much of the horror genre in Asia is focused on curses and spirits. What many western viewers didn’t seem to realize was that Riana was meant to be the “hero” of the act, not the villain. The character is a young girl who is being chased and possessed by an evil spirit, and she warns others (aka the judges) that they are coming.
It’s interesting to see the cultural differences between American acts and those hailing from overseas, and I have a feeling we’re going to be in for a lot more international contestants when America’s Got Talent: The Champions airs this winter and features Got Talent winners from across the globe. In the meantime, you can catch America’s Got Talent Season 13 on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 8/7c on NBC.