Global EditionASIA 中文双语Français
Home / Lifestyle / Celebrities

Fans will go to any lengths to promote their idol

By Zhang Lei | China Daily | Updated: 2020-05-30 09:54
Share - WeChat
The popularity of an idol now correlates directly with his or her fans' psychological satisfaction, which is spurred by their pivotal role in propelling the subject of their admiration to ever greater stardom. [Photo by Wu Wei/Mi Duke/China Daily]

Lin Huishan sees her relationship with the apple of her eye, the pop star Jackson Yee, almost as one of maternal love.

"What drew me was his pretty face, in 2015," says Li, 25, who works for a technology company in Shanghai. "Soon it was his dedication to music that was so appealing to me. He's someone who has found true inner peace by achieving what he has set out to do."

Yee is one of the three members of The Fighting Boys, a popular boy band that has built a huge fan base in China since 2013.

Lin says she spends on average 20,000 yuan ($2,800) a year on what she calls "cloud-raising her son". In her college years almost half the money she had was spent on him, she says. She snapped up every single magazine she was aware of that featured Yee on its cover. She has seen every film he has had the remotest involvement with and has invited friends to watch them with her, and she has splashed out on any product he endorses.

Lin's routine every day for her star clan includes organizing online support event and promotion. In November 2016, to celebrate their hero's 16th birthday, the clan bought a video advertisement in Times Square, New York, and flew a hot air balloon over the River Thames in London. This outpouring of love provoked ridicule from skeptics on Weibo, who pointed out that Americans would have no idea who he was, and that this over-the-top presentation of him was more likely to repel anyone who might otherwise have been interested in him.

"This culture of chasing stars anyhow and anywhere, now branded 'support', originated in Japan and South Korea," says Guo Xin, a marketing professor at Beijing Technology and Business University. "It came with the rise of the entertainment industry in the two countries and had its roots in cheer squads in sport. It flourished as idols and the companies behind them sought to gain followers, spawning the current fan economy."

The popularity of an idol now correlates directly with his or her fans' psychological satisfaction, Guo says. Spurred by their pivotal role in propelling the subject of their admiration to ever greater stardom, each fan becomes a cog in the engine powering the industry, and everyone in the clan becomes a defender against anything that may tarnish their idol's image. The battle is never about the star himself or herself, but the fan, Guo says.

"At first the uninitiated, called chi gua qun zhong, or peanut gallery, had a wait-and-see attitude to all this stuff. Then, as they observed how these fans were carrying on, they became a little perplexed, and finally, once the clans succeeded in gaining more and more followers, were turned off by it."

The clans will go to almost any length to draw attention to their idols, be it advertising on subway trains, renting large LED screens in urban spaces, performing aerial antics over a city using a helicopter of other aircraft, and organizing VIP luxury cruises.

in 2016, to celebrate the 17th birthday of Wang Junkai, a member of the band the TFboys, fans organized what was billed as a sea, land and air party for him said to have cost more than 1 million yuan. One of the events, a light display on external walls of the National Aquatics Center in Beijing, popularly known as the Water Cube, garnered 42,776,438 retweets on Weibo from fans and gained an entry in Guinness World Records.

Lin says that everything "clan girls" do in aid of their idol is organized to the nth degree because it needs to please big investors in the entertainment industry, they having the ultimate say over the idol's resources and exposure.

China's domestic pop cultural market began to flourish in 1980 after the country adopted reform and opening-up policies. Hong Kong and Taiwan singers and film stars represented by Chow Yun-Fat and Leslie Cheung, popular novel writers such as Jin Yong, sports champions such as the Chinese women's volleyball team, and rock stars such as Cui Jian were pioneers in the world of fandom. Written material, pictures, audio and video of this first-generation of idols was cemented with the help of print media as well as cassette recorders and television.

However, until 2010 the collective power of fandom was very limited, its activities restricted mainly to gossip, saving every penny for the next concert, seeking autographs or swooning over posters plastered on bedroom walls. Then, over the coming years, "the love supply chain" and "unity is strength" ethos that characterize present-day fandom slowly emerged.

In a talk show on iQIYI Video, the composer and music producer Gao Xiaosong delved into the psychology of clan girls in the Korean-style support culture.

Unlike Westerners, Chinese and East Asian fans prefer their idols to have a whiter-than-white, clean-cut image that almost demands they be protected. The presumption is that there are many bad people out there who want to attack the idol, and that even the star's agent does not really have his or her best interests at heart. "No one is good enough for my baby, only me," the thinking goes, Gao says.

Just how important clan girls have become to assuring the success of their proteges is borne out in Weibo financial figures. Last year the microblog's owners said revenue from super topics in the first quarter was $58 million, 24 percent more than in the corresponding period in 2018.

However, those in the vanguard of fan culture and anyone behind the scenes pulling strings are not having everything their own way. For example, many people who rely on unbiased reviews on Weibo and other social media sites to determine whether they want to follow a certain actor or singer have become disgruntled by piles of glowing tributes they say have obviously been planted in an organized attempt by fans to drive their idols higher up on rankings lists and thus give them more prominence. This has led to slanging matches online as those who have become wise to the ruse have demanded that the offenders' posts be moved.

These antics have also pitted fan groups against one another, each side feeding negative material onto the internet about the other's idol to tarnish their image.

Clan culture even came up at the Third Session of the 13th National People's Congress last week. Song Wenxin, an NPC deputy and vice-president of Taishan Cultural Industry Secondary School in Tai'an, Shandong province, gave a speech in which she talked of the star clan culture, suggesting that what she said was "the entertainment industry's unhealthy atmosphere" should be cleaned up by promoting "positive energy icons" who would take responsibility for imbuing minors with "mainstream values".

Most Popular
Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349