Abusing to amuse – a sign of the times

By Yin Lu Source:Global Times Published: 2013-3-18 19:58:01


Illustration: Peter C. Espina/GT
Illustration: Peter C. Espina/GT

The recent emergence of online "beauty graders", who give scores to people's looks based on their photos, has drawn a lot of attention. Liu Jishou, which means "holding back a few tricks" in Chinese, a Weibo account with more than three million followers, is a particularly mean version of this trend.

How can a person who is always demeaning others also be amusing, likeable, and even popular?

I think that in addition to the fact that most people enjoy any kind of attention and a little online verbal sadism and masochism, the graders can also satisfy a dark desire to read something offensive and mean about other people. The reason why this guy stands out among others is that his criticism amounts to more than just mean-spirited assessments of people's looks.

He uses vulgar language, such as "score of negative infinity", "like a clown", and "typical image of a hillbilly bounder", which are fairly mild compared to other comments that can't be published.

But each assessment is also like a short story telling the life of a person from the judgmental, tacky eye of a vulgar person. Knowing the social classes and their weaknesses, Liu manages to fit a person's image into a wider social category, where the poor and uneducated are mocked.

Some celebrities and expats have also asked Liu to grade them. One fairly good-looking English teacher from Canada was described as an "unemployed farmer", "fake foreign expert on shopping channels", and "very cheap when seeking one-night-stand in bars", and given a negative score on his looks.

Just like that, he ridicules the people at the bottom for trying to climb up the social ladder, and also mocks the upper class for being pretentious and shallow. He takes particular pleasure in making fun of insecure middle-class people with humble origins, like himself.

In Liu's stories, everybody tries to look upper-class, but many details give them away. And people can really relate to that, mock others and then go on to mock themselves.

It seems like he is putting on a puppet show, where the person who releases his or her own photos is manipulated and set up. Apparently, Liu understands well the philosophy of being a smart ass - he's really annoying, but if you think about it, he is smart. Because in this age, everything seems like a show and everybody wants to be amused to the extreme, in any way possible.

As Liu's popularity grows, some say we should not be amused by such insulting language and should be seriously concerned that this society is becoming morally deficient. Some experts say that the bottom line of social and ethical values has been crossed.

I don't think there's any need to freak out. It's understandable and necessary to worry about new things, but nobody takes saucy jokes to be their moral standards. But I do worry that this can become a bad influence on vulnerable juveniles.

I have noticed that as people get used to Liu's methods of criticism, they have become less satisfied. Many commented that Liu has "changed", or "gone commercial".  Maybe someday, people will get tired of this and the trend will be over, but not yet.

Posted in: Twocents-Opinion

blog comments powered by Disqus