September 4, 2005

Pop culture as the cutting edge of politics — in China.

The Chinese vote for "Super Girl":
In a country where it is illegal to organize many types of public meetings, fans formed booster clubs and canvassed malls to court prospective voters. There were even accusations of voter fraud, as rabid fans circumvented the rule limiting each person to 15 votes.

"It's like a gigantic game that has swept so many people into a euphoria of voting, which is a testament to a society opening up," a social commentator, Zhu Dake, told state media.
It's not just the chance to engage in political-style activity that makes this story so compelling. It is the chance to break away from the centralized cultural norms:
Unlike much programming that comes out of Beijing or Shanghai, "Super Girl" featured young women from the provinces. For many fans, it was the lack of polish of the performers, and the lack of predictability of the voting results, that made the program addictive.
And consider the winner, the Super Girl:
[Li Yuchun], 21, is almost the antithesis of the assembly-line beauties regularly offered up on the government's China Central Television, or CCTV. Tall and gangly, with a thatch of frizzy hair, the adjectives most used to describe her in the media were "boyish" or "androgynous." Some commentators speculated that her fan base consisted of young girls who considered her to be their "boyfriend" because of her appearance.
Don't think style isn't part of politics. Smashing the government's image of the feminine matters!

3 comments:

Steven said...

the adjectives most used to describe her in the media were "boyish" or "androgynous." Some commentators speculated that her fan base consisted of young girls who considered her to be their "boyfriend" because of her appearance.

Hmm. In a country running 1.2:1 male to female, a butch woman is seen as a romantic interest by enough young girls that that was the reason she won a popularity contest?

Assuming the commentators weren't total idiots (though they probably are), it would suggest China won't have an overpopulation problem in a generation or so.

Ann Althouse said...

Maybe androgyny is becoming popular because young men are trying to find a way to have sexual relationships. Li really is a woman but she looks boyish. That may help a young heterosexual man find a way to see other men as suitable sexual partners.

Jack said...

Looking at the portrait the girls are holding, my first thought was that she looks very ... Western. Not sure that I want to read too much into that, but that was my initial impression.

On reflection, it occurs to me that that may be consistent with the androgynous angle. I'm not too familiar with Chinese political culture, but don't they tend to deprecate Western "decadence"?