‘Cut it’ after ‘action’: Morality fades out off screen

By Wang Wenwen Source:Global Times Published: 2019/1/23 19:23:40

Illustrations: Peter C. Espina/GT

Actors live a character and oftentimes the audience can't but help see them in the same way even when the make-up is erased and the arc lights are out. 

This applies to celebrities all over the world, and also in China where the term "renshe" or literally "character setting" refers to the public image they create to promote themselves. While most celebrities try to be seen in nice and dependable personas, "character setting" collapses when they are found behaving otherwise.

No wonder Chinese fans blew their tops when Wu Xiubo, a 50-year-old actor known for his all-round great-guy image in Finding Mr. Right, turned out to be an unforgiving lover. His extramarital affair, the latest celebrity scandal, has sent shock waves. 

The affair was not new, as last September, a young actress and singer named Chen Yulin revealed how Wu had manipulated her into becoming a mistress and housewife for him. But over the weekend, the farce returned in full force with Chen's parents claiming that their daughter had been arrested by Beijing police when she arrived at the airport from abroad after being set up by Wu.

Wu has stayed out of the fray, but his wife did not sit still - she defended her husband by accusing Chen of demanding "tens of millions of yuan" to break up with him.

According to information on social media, Chen, who apparently is a vain and extravagant woman, is not someone easy to deal with. Netizens questioned how malicious Wu could have been to lure his mistress back to Beijing to have her arrested, a stark contrast to his good man "character setting."

One cannot tell which side is innocent in this farce, as one needs two to tango. But the impact on Wu the "family man" is clear. His new film, A Boyfriend For my Girlfriend, supposed to hit theaters on the first day of the Chinese New Year (February 5), the peak box-office period for the industry, has been postponed to an undisclosed date. 

What's worse, as an advertising endorser, Wu may face compensation claims from companies. And according to his agent company, the scandal can cost him and the company at least 1 billion yuan ($150 million). 

Besides commercial purposes, the "character setting" of a celebrity tends to draw fans from a certain group of people. Wu seems to be an "idol" for elderly women in China, looking decent and calm. So when the latest scandal surfaced, many netizens cried out, "Oh, my mom would burst into tears in our restroom!"

Wu is not the only actor whose "character setting" as a good man has collapsed. Huang Haibo, who earned the nickname - "the nation's son-in-law" - for his role in the TV series Beautiful daughter-in-law, was arrested for soliciting prostitutes in 2014. The scandal spelled a disaster for his career as he almost disappeared from the public eye ever since.

After all, brazen hypocrisy is nothing new in the showbiz industry and the characters celebrities set in the public are obviously not real and disappear like a fade out shot. You may think that they are goodness personified but often turn out to be unscrupulous and morally corrupt. 

Mistakes ordinary people make can be made by celebrities as well, such as taking drugs and having extramarital affairs. The difference is that celebrities are supposed to set an example to the public - role models of virtue and moral generosity. Perhaps this is the cost they need to pay for being celebrities and living their characters. 

The author is a reporter with the Global Times. wangwenwen@globaltimes.com.cn

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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