Voices cry out in terror over Chinese ‘Star Wars’ ambassador Lu Han

By Wei Xi Source:Global Times Published: 2016-1-3 19:08:01

Chinese Star Wars ambassador Lu Han appears in promotional material for The Force Awakens.Photo: CFP

The first film in the series in over a decade, Star Wars: The Force Awakens wasn't just one of the most highly anticipated films of the year in 2015, it also managed to become one of the highest earning films in the world, and that was without the Chinese market.

Set to hit theaters on January 9 in China, the second largest film market in the world behind the US, the film is poised to make a big splash in the country. Yet success overseas does not mean the film will not face hurdles in the country.

In their efforts to squeeze as much money out of the Chinese market as possible, the producers and distributors behind the red hot franchise have chosen rising pop star Lu Han as their Star Wars "Ambassador" in China. However, this move has been controversial, as the choice to associate the franchise with this young and adorably cute star has raised the ire of long-time fans of Star Wars in China.  

This has raised the question of whether the choice of Lu Han was the right one.

The prettiest Jedi

Ever since the announcement that Lu would represent Stars Wars on the Chinese mainland the Internet has been in an uproar.

Born in 1990 in China, Lu made a name for himself in South Korea as a singer in the South Korean band EXO. With his success outside his home, he began shifting his focus back to China in 2014 and has since frequently appeared in domestic films and TV shows, as well as released several singles. Often called "little fresh meat" in Chinese, Lu is now a popular figure among young Chinese.   

"For Lu, I'll mark the film on my calendar."

"I'm going to buy a lightsaber too because of Lu."

Remarks such as these have been common among the idol's fans. However, while Lu's marketing appearances for the film in the Chinese mainland has thrilled his fans, many older Star Wars fans in China have felt disappointed and angry.

"Please pardon me saying so, but why did Disney choose such a sissy to act as a Jedi in the commercial trailer?" netizen Chaoji Zhanshu Jiqiren posted on Sina Weibo. 

"Give me back my Stars Wars!! Little Creamy Man (Lu Han) should just stay at home. You are incapable of handling the Force… That lightsaber doesn't suit you at all." Danjuanpei, another Sina Weibo user, wrote.

Few fans

Premiering almost four decades ago in 1977, Star Wars has collected millions of fans around the world with its seven films and numerous tie-in products. However, in China, a nation whose population accounts for one-fifth of the global population, Star Wars has been little more than just a name for many moviegoers.

This is largely due to the delayed and incoherent showings of the Star Wars films, as well as the late awakened interest in sci-fi in China.

While the first Star Wars trilogy premiered overseas in the 1970s and 1980s, the series did not appear in Chinese theaters until the fourth installment, The Phantom Menace in 1999. Later, even though Revenge of the Sith premiered in China on the same day as the US, it was only shown in a limited number of cinemas. All in all, the prequels didn't make much of an impact in China.

Things may have been different if the films were not sci-fi movies based on an entirely imaginary universe. Both Titanic and the Jurassic Park series left huge impressions on Chinese moviegoers during the 1990s.  

As a result, there are few fans of the franchise in China, and of those that are fans, most of them are now in their 30s and 40s.

A wise choice?

The mainland film market has experienced rapid development in recent years. Theaters are surging in third- and fourth-tier cities and young audiences in their 20s and early 30s are major box office contributors.

Consider the small and aged fanbase that exists for Star Wars in China, marketers emphasis on attracting young moviegoers in small cities is definitely the right choice. As such, despite possibly alienating older fans, Lu Han certainly is the perfect fit for attracting a younger audiences.

Newspaper headline: Fan rage awakens

Posted in: Film

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