Keep the drums beating in fight against toxic online celebrities

Wan Lixin
The regulatory authority should prepare for a protracted war over society's addiction to this chaotic fandom culture.
Wan Lixin

In the ongoing campaign against chaotic online celebrities, "fan circles," and the digital platforms that stand to profit from them, relevant authorities are working full steam ahead.

In a recent circular on comprehensive management work in the cultural and entertainment sectors, the Publicity Department of the CPC Central Committee points to the unsolved problems of astronomical payouts to some actors and actresses, tax evasions, the obsession with rankings, a distorted perception of beauty, and the chaotic fandom culture, citing some celebrities' lack of a moral compass, and their corrupting influence on impressionable young minds.

On September 2, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television came up with further initiatives to rein in the excesses.

Specifically, those performers without a political and moral compass should never be employed in the sectors.

In addressing the obsession with data generated rankings, there will be a wholesale ban on programs that seek to raise or develop celebrities, with a particular injunction against those entertainments participated in by celebrities' children, and talent shows.

The celebrity voting protocols will be subject to stricter control, with total blocking of external channels through which "fan circles" are encouraged to boost their favored idols' social media profiles through posts, shares, "likes," or purchases.

The phenomenon of sissy celebrities, better known as niangpao in Chinese, which seeks to extol emasculating male "beauty," will be eliminated.

There was a time when idols were normal people who had made sacrifices or substantial contributions to the common good. Although actors and actresses were favored objects of admiration, they were more venerated for their performing arts, and thus they were a subtle yet uplifting influence. The satisfactions gained by those idols were also chiefly spiritual.

In contrast, the "idols" of today are often vacuous products of aggressive marketing, with many of them projecting an influence totally inconsistent with core socialist values.

"As our future, young people must be charged with positive energy, guided carefully, and kept painstakingly away from any pernicious and corrupting influences," observed 94-year-old Chen Yunde, who could still enumerate some actors and actresses from earlier times who were appreciated for their moral stature and performance.

If the fans of yesterday were persuaded to purchase their idols' albums, or seek their autograph, technology has already led to a paradigm shift.

Today's fans work long and hard, and their engagement, worked out by algorithms, gets expressed in competitive idol rankings which galvanize them into more aggressive involvement through activities that show their solidarity and buoy their morale, in spite of life's difficulties.

When the going gets tough, fans of opposing camps are incited to engage in virtual attacks and counterattacks, and the fires of rivalry are carefully stoked, for this translates into solid gains for digital platforms.

In a dramatic incident early this year, some fans were seen dumping bottles of milk and yogurt into ditches. The drinks were produced by a sponsor who promised fans additional votes for each purchase.

Obviously, the new celebrities are being minted through a highly manipulating process, with all their fans slaving away pushing up the idol rankings. Most of them (including their idols) are at an age when they should know the joys of reading, or embrace the great outdoors.

The litany goes longer.

Some fans get misguided notions about their gender role, because of the facetiously effeminized looks and behavior of their sissy idols.

Given some young people's addiction to this toxic celebrity culture, and how the digital platforms are enriching themselves, our regulatory authority should be prepared for a protracted war of successive cleanups.

But the results would be hugely rewarding, for these fans might be emancipated from exploitation, and aspire to more meaningful careers that might truly profit their country, their families, and themselves.

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