Largest fanfic platform inaccessible in China after fans report 'erotic' work

By Cao Siqi and Xu Keyue Published: 2020/3/3 1:17:11

Wang Yibo (Left) and Xiao Zhan attend a concert for The Untamed in Nanjing, East China's Jiangsu Province on November 2, 2019. Photo: VCG

A global fanfic platform is currently inaccessible in China after a popular actor's fans rushed to report "erotic" works modeled on the actor, claiming to be combatting pornography and protecting their idol from humiliation. It provoked a big backlash among the public, with some criticizing the fans for damaging artistic freedom. 

Chinese actor Xiao Zhan, who gained fame from the drama The Untamed, an adaptation of a novel in the "boys' love" genre, found himself in hot water after some of his fans reported a fictional work modeled on him, to the country's anti-pornography and anti-illegal publication office. Fans alleged the pornographic content would stain Xiao's reputation. 

The controversial work, published on Archive of Our Own (AO3), a US-based fanfic platform, set Xiao as a woman having a sexual relationship with Wang Yibo, a boy in the novel. Wang played Xiao's companion in the drama The Untamed. 

AO3, where Chinese and overseas users share fan works and cultures, was inaccessible in the Chinese mainland on Saturday after reports by Xiao's fans. Another fan work platform Lofter was reportedly checking and removing articles published by users.  

AO3 announced on Sina Weibo that AO3 requires authors to label their works if there is any potentially provocative content so that users can avoid it if they want. Readers can report it to the management team if they find inappropriate labeling of a work.

Real person fiction itself is not a violation of the community unless the work incites harm and threats to real people, the post said.

One of the authors on the platform, who requested anonymity, told the Global Times on Monday that they lost all their works on the platform and lost a precious platform to communicate with those who share the same interests across the world. 

A loyal user of the platform, who gave her name as "Tiantian," said that Xiao's fans' move had stifled artistic freedom and was part of a growing intolerance of diversity. 

Xiao's studio apologized on Sunday on Weibo and called on fans to be more rational in support of their idol.

But the apology failed to ease the anger of AO3 users. Some launched a campaign to boycott products endorsed by Xiao, as well as his films and television works.

The event reflects the chaotic fan culture, which is in urgent need of management and reform, Zhu Wei, a professor at the China University of Political Science and Law, told the Global Times on Monday.

Such battles between fan groups often involve insults, suppression of dissent, cyberspace violence and cyber manhunts, which is bad for normal cultural communication, the culture industry's development and social stability, Zhu noted.

The battle also wastes public management resources as the related authorities could be busy dealing with their reports, Zhu said.

Posted in: SOCIETY,TV

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