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Fans offer more than idol

By Raymond Zhou | China Daily | Updated: 2016-01-18 08:24

The fans were elated, unaware that the sarcastic statement implicitly equated them with the Red Guards of the bygone era. In a way, die-hard fans have brains wired somewhat like the Red Guards.

They take one thing in life as absolute and are willing to defend it to their death. They are generally unable to hold a rational debate with those having opposing views. Rather, they would resort to violence, verbal or physical if necessary, to protect their idols.

There is the occasional tragedy when a teenager whose idolatry reaches a feverish pitch has to confront a parent and, in a fit of madness, this results in a scuffle or even death. One father killed his daughter after she blurted out: "My idol means more to me than you do."

Teenagers of all times go through that phase. What differentiates this generation is unprecedented purchasing power. Being single children, they can afford to "chase stars" with real money.

An industry insider told me that a fan base of 100,000 is sufficient to sustain a major-league entertainer. That translates into hundreds or even thousands of yuan per person. At some level, fandom resembles a cult.

Most of China's hot idols are androgynous young men. Ironically they are good at selling projects to investors but not necessarily effective at selling the finished movies to viewers.

Movies starring one of them - in contrast to Mr. Six where they have supporting roles - have underperformed in general. Most wound up in the 100-200-million-yuan range, which is respectable but won't quicken your heartbeat.

The new Star Wars installment used one of them, Lu Han, as a marketing tool. The new champion of US box-office records is deemed by many in China as a "fan film", but its Chinese fan base is paltry compared with that in other countries.

Employing Lu, now given the new moniker "China's Justin Bieber", would certainly raise the movie's awareness among the all-important demographic for movie consumption, but it remains to be seen whether it will convert to a ticket-buying frenzy. By definition, a "fan film" can be a turnoff for those who are not fans.




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