‘Idol Worship’

By Li Ying Source:Global Times Published: 2015-12-14 18:33:01

The die-hard fans of ‘little fresh flesh’

Pop icon and actor Wu Yifan. Photo: Courtesy of Shenfan1990

Friday, November 6, 2015, was an ordinary day for most, at best it marked the end of the work week and the beginning of the weekend. But for Miss Wang (pseudonym), the date has long held a special meaning. She started planning for it 300 days ago and now the time has come. Miss Wang and a few of her friends were going to present a birthday gift to their idol, pop singer and actor, Wu Yifan (Kris).

The manager of the "Shenfan1990" account on Sina Weibo, a Twitter-like Chinese social media platform, 28-year-old Miss Wang has put a considerable amount of time and effort into tracking Wu's movements and sharing photo updates with other fans. She has gained more than 100,000 active followers for her labors.

Wu, 25, is among the celebrities widely regarded as xiaoxianrou, or "little fresh flesh," an expression that refers to those young, handsome men mainly born after the 1990s. He enjoys ultra-high popularity, especially on social media platforms, and is being chased by tens of millions of die-hard fans, who enthusiastically tweet and retweet everything about their idols.

Social media platforms are giving die-hard fans more opportunities to show their special love for their idols. Miss Wang is one of them. 

Wu Yifan elbows his way through crowds of fans at an airport in Shanghai in May. Photo: CFP

The birthday gift

Months of planning culminated in a big reveal at The Place in Chaoyang district. At 9:30 pm, Miss Wang, together with two other die-hard fans, unveiled their special birthday gift - a video display.

Huge images of Wu, wearing his trademark expression, different styles of clothing and showing off his winning good looks, were broadcasted on a giant overhead screen, punctuated with "Happy Birthday to Wu." A lot of fans learned about the "surprise" in advance and gathered at the location to share in the moment.

Although Wu has yet to officially acknowledge their gift, Miss Wang said she's confident that he saw it, and that made it worthwhile.

"We wanted to let more people see Wu on that day. The public show went with the theme 'It is happy to encounter you, Wu.'"

She said she had painstakingly unearthed images of Wu for the photo montage because she wanted to share his versatility with other die-hard fans and the public at large.

"His existence itself is a nice and amazing thing, and being one of his fans is a thing filled with positive energy. We want to deliver such feeling to him and the public," said Miss Wang.

A video clip of the birthday display was posted on Shenfan1990; it was re-posted more than 10,000 times and won more than 4,700 likes.

It was not the first time that Miss Wang sent Wu a special birthday gift.

In 2014, she took out a full page advertisement in a Shanghai-based newspaper to wish her idol a happy birthday. She then gave 1,000 copies of the newspaper to Shenfan1990's followers as gifts.

A photo of Chinese heartthrob Wu Yifan that was taken by die-hard fan Miss Wang at his birthday party in Beijing on November 6. Photo: Courtesy of Shenfan1990

A loyal fan

Miss Wang sees herself as a store owner who manages Shenfan1990 in her spare time. She said the account was launched two years ago with a friend. "I became a die-hard fan of Wu, of course, firstly because he is handsome, which always gives me pleasant feelings. Then later I found, from his talk shows and other public activities, that he is a man who, behind his cool exterior, owns a warm personality. He is a person of charisma." 

Miss Wang is quite comfortable in her role as a die-hard fan. She said Korean pop culture influences her behavior and describes her role as a zhanzi, or a fan station. A search on Sina Weibo yielded hundreds of fan stations, especially for "little fresh flesh" stars.

The number of Chinese fan stations has grown rapidly in recent years apace with the acceptance of Korean pop culture on the mainland. Fan stations first appeared among young Korean fans. Some of the stations were founded with the support of star agencies and entertainment companies, and others grew out of the individual efforts of fans who are self-financed. Some stations are aimed at organizing fans to form a group to support the star at various public events while others are devoted to sharing updates, mostly new photos of the stars, with other fans. Miss Wang's station falls into the second group.

Since social networking websites are paramount in people's life, a lot of fan stations, which used to operate as independent websites, have shifted their focus to Weibo.

"Fans follow my Weibo account because they like my photos of Wu. I am good at photographing," said Miss Wang.

She is a loyal follower of almost every public event that Wu attends. She recently traveled to Changsha in Hunan Province where Wu was recording a TV show. She was also in the crowd at a music concert that Wu attended in Beijing recently to promote his movie Mr Six (2015). In July 2014, she flew to Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, where Wu was filming the movie Somewhere Only We Know (2015). During that period, Wu was in the spotlight because he was about to end his contract with Korean boy band, EXO.

"I posted the latest about Wu and his contract based on my understanding of what my friends who work as entertainment reporters said," Miss Wang said.

A lot of followers thanked her for keeping them abreast of all the developments related to Wu and his career on Shenfan1990.

Celebrity worship

The heated topics that dominate Sina Weibo are mostly related to celebrities, especially updates on the "little fresh flesh" stars like Wu, who are followed by hundreds of millions of fans. Wu's personal Weibo account "Mr_ Fanxiansheng" has more than 12 million fans, with each of the posts being forwarded tens of thousands of times and liked by tens of thousands of people.

In the Chinese language, Shenfan means "God-like man Wu Yifan." In Miss Wang's opinion, celebrity worship is akin to religion.

"I think it is like everyone has faith in a certain thing, which can be a brand or an item that they admire," she said.

She added that fans also have a vanity in that they want their idol to be stronger, more popular and better supported than others.

"Fans would repost and like the posts of their idols because everyone hopes their faith will be acknowledged and supported by more people," she explained. "It is natural that whenever others deem your faith wrong, you would feel as if you are being attacked and repudiated."

She dislikes the title "brain-damaged fans,"  which is used to describe some fans who go to extreme about their stars.

"Others may view fans with glasses of color. They believe it is insane and unreasonable for a person to be excited about a stranger," she said.

"But in fact, celebrity worship is the same as a hobby. Fans can feel happy and empowered from their hobby. Collectors are brain-damaged fans of antiques. For young people, what excites them are usually celebrities."

Miss Wang said most of the die-hard fans of these "little fresh flesh" are students who have a plenty of spare time, and about 99 percent are girls. She expects their celebrity worship will fade as soon as they graduate and go into the working world.

"Wu has made a lot of effort along the way to achieve his dream of becoming an actor. His story inspires us to chase our dreams," she said.

Posted in: Metro Beijing

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