Chaotic fan culture leads to celebrity-ranking ban

Wang Yong
In a notice published today, the Cyberspace Administration of China announced a ban on all celebrity rankings involving individuals or a group of celebrities.
Wang Yong

China announced a ban on celebrity rankings today in what it called a heightened move to crack down on a chaotic online fan culture.

In a notice published today, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) said the ban applies to all rankings involving individuals or a group of celebrities. Rankings of musical and film works are still allowed, according to the notice, provided they do not show personal identities of celebrities such as their names.

The ban on celebrity rankings tackles the chaotic fan culture at its root – a ranking system often vulnerable to subjective manipulation. Many young fans, divided against each other to defend their respective idols, often resort to irrational behavior in boosting the popularity of their stars.

These fans, said Lin Shengdong, a scholar at China Renmin University, replace objective with subjective judgment and launch irrational and utterly ruthless attacks on whomever they disagree with, even to the point of encroaching upon others' privacy rights.

Ultimately, such rankings of entertainment stars have less to do with talent than how many fans celebrities can collect, and how many online hits these fans can produce by whatever means.

Take the "milk-dumping" case, for example. A video went viral in early May in which a group of middle-aged men and women were busy opening bottles of milk and, while keeping all the lids, emptying the milk into a ditch. It was later found that these people had been hired by young fans to collect the lids on which there were specially devised QR codes that fans had to scan to vote for their idols. These fans bought the milk from a designated sponsor of a variety show on iQiyi, an online video platform, beyond their capacity to consume.

It was a case of both irregular voting and food waste. iQiyi later apologized for the malpractice. On Wednesday it reiterated that it would no longer produce idol variety shows in the next few years, and would cancel all off-stage canvassing activities.

China News Service reported today that Weibo and Douyin, two leading social media platforms in China, have taken their celebrity rankings off the shelf after the CAC notice.

As for the rankings of musical and film works, the notice dictates that fans' favorable comments and sign-ins should play a smaller role in the overall appraisal of a piece of work's popularity. More weight should be given to professional judgment, among other factors, so fans pay more attention to the quality of a cultural product rather than blindly worship idols.

Reuters noted in a recent report that the change will also act "against the financial exploitation of netizens through the sale of merchandise or by charging fans to vote for their favorite acts in online variety shows," yet another benefit.

Entertainment is good only if it's healthy. There's no point amusing ourselves to death through hype and hypocrisy. The chaotic fan culture has to be rectified, lest myriad young people be misled into what the late writer William Somerset Maugham called "a fanatical belief" in an invented legend.

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