China / Society

Generation fun

By Peng Yining (China Daily) Updated: 2014-11-19 08:17

What's so funny?

Liu Xiyang, 21

Generation fun

I love watching Bref, a series of short films from France that feature fast cuts and are never longer than 2 minutes. They are hilarious.

I made a few short films in the style of Bref and showed them to my mother. She said: "They're very good. I am so proud of you. But I don't think I understood them."

I also find Dan Mu funny. That's when you're watching a video and comments made by netizens fly across the screen like bullets. Dan Mu is becoming popular among the Post-'90s, and I've heard some movie theaters now allow people to text comments during movies and their words appear on the big screen. People get to mock the actors, the storyline, everything. Sometimes there are so many comments that they cover the whole screen. It's a new form of entertainment.

Recently, I laughed a lot while watching a TV ad, because it was so ridiculous. It revolved around a man in a wheelchair who would regain the use of his legs if he rubbed them with the "magic paste" being promoted. The ad was meant to be taken seriously, but it was so preposterous that I couldn't help laughing out loud.

When we were in high school, we were strictly managed by the teachers. All snacks were taken away when we entered the classroom, and there was even a regulation stipulating that there had to be a gap of at least 1 meter between boys and girls when they were walking together. That was how the school kept its students from falling in love, which could jeopardize their academic lives. The teachers would inspect the campus at night and point flashlights at potential lovers. Looking back, it sounds funny, but we were under huge pressure from the college entrance exam at the time. However, once we passed the exam, we got to do whatever we wanted.

The distinctive humor and worldview of people born after 1990 have been shaped by their easy relationship with social media and China's economic rise, as Peng Yining reports.

When Liu Xiyang was given an assignment to make a public information program about the law and its relevance to the general public, his first thought was, "How can I make it fun?"

The 21-year-old law junior, who works as a reporter at Tsinghua University's in-house TV station, was told the program should be logical, educational, and helpful to people involved in legal disputes, but rather than playing by the book, Liu had other ideas.

Instead of making a worthy-but-dull educational piece, Liu and his schoolmates produced a 10-minute program that parodied China Central Television's Xinwen Lianbo, or News Simulcast, which airs at 7 pm every day and is one of China's most serious news broadcasts.

Liu used the opening animation sequence of Xinwen Lianbo, but changed the name of the program to Zuowen Lianbo (Mean News Simulcast) and used special effects so he could play the male and female anchors at the same time. Also, rather than using straight reporting techniques in an item about consumer protests against restaurants setting minimum charges, the program showed a customer rapping about his, and other people's, bad experiences in eateries.

The video quickly garnered more than 13,000 hits on the Internet, mostly from Tsinghua students who found it hilarious.

However, Liu quickly realized that he and his adoring audience have a sense of humor specific to their age group.

"I played my video at a presentation, and the audience, people in their 30s and 40s, were like, 'What's the point?' but people my age burst out laughing," said Liu. "It's just my generation's sense of humor. We like to make things fun."

The Post-'90s, as they are known, differ greatly from people born in the '80s and earlier. While their elders have a generally serious attitude to life - jobs, marriage, social responsibility - the Post-'90s tend to be more playful and embrace the spirit of fun. The potential for fun has become a key consideration when teens and 20-somethings make decisions about the things they want to do.

Social media

What really distinguishes this generation, though, is its easy relationship with social media. The Internet is not so much a medium of choice as something they were born into. Unlike previous generations, many of whom grew up witnessing the development of the Web, the Post-'90s were born when the Internet was fully functional. They have never known anything else and have an innate sense of how it functions. Forums, games, memes, video mashups and apps such as Songify, which turns spoken words into songs, are simply a fact of life. The generation's distinctive humor is generated by and transmitted through the Internet, which they access via mobile devices, not traditional PCs.

According to a 2012 report by China Internet Watch, the Post-'90s accounted for 11.7 percent of the Chinese population; that's about 140 million people. Moreover, they represented 13 percent of the country's total Internet users

While they mostly chatted online, about 67 percent of them watched movies, more than 66 percent browsed news sites, and 61 percent used the network to download data. Many used forums to discuss current topics, identify and read literary works, and updated their blogs. Above all, humor played a large role in their internet browsing

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