Kris Wu, the beginning of the doom of China’s streaming stars
Published: Jul 20, 2021 07:48 PM
Kris Wu Photo: IC

Kris Wu Photo: IC

In just two days, the career of Chinese-Canadian pop star Kris Wu has been turned upside down.

According to reports, 15 brands, including luxury car brand Porsche and streaming platform Tencent Video, have cut ties with Wu and three companies affiliated with him have been closed as of Tuesday morning following accusations that he lured underage girls for sex.

The end of the star's endorsement deal with Tencent Video is significant as the big-budget ancient consume drama The Golden Hairpin starring Wu was funded by the platform. 

Some insiders have said that the ruckus could cause Wu a loss of over 500 million yuan ($77 million).

It's time to reflect on the era of worshiping satreaming stars, especially those that rely more on their social media presence than their actual talent as entertainers. This is especially warranted since in today's age it is difficult to determine if a star's popularity on social media is real or has been artificially inflated through underhanded marketing schemes. 

Cases of pop idols artificially inflating likes and shares on social media have appeared in headlines one after another. In 2019, Beijing's internet police shut down an app that had reportedly made 8 million yuan by faking likes and shares on Sina Weibo to boost a pop idol's popularity. 

As a member of the first-generation of stars who developed a career in China after first earning fame overseas, Wu, who first rose to fame as a member of South Korean boy band EXO, has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the past decade of the social media era. 

The careers of stars such as him do not rely on competitive or brilliant skills nor representative film and television works, but rather are founded on an overwhelming streaming on social media, which has allowed them to remain at the forefront of the entertainment industry for a long time.

Wu has positioned himself as a singer and actor. However, since leaving EXO in 2014, the only hit song he has had was "Big Bowl Thick Noodles" in 2019.

As an actor, his last live action movie was Europe Raiders in 2018, which only has a score of 3.5/10 on Chinese media review site Douban and a box office of only 150 million yuan. Meanwhile, the animated 2020 film Legend of Ravaging Dynasties 2, which abandoned a theatrical release for a streaming debut, only has an 3.9/10 score on Douban.

In other words, the only things that have kept this "top-tier" star active over the last three or four years have been brand endorsements and appearances on variety shows and at galas.

In recent years, the standards for artists have risen in China's film and television industry and among netizens. Celebrities like Wu who don't have top-level works to show their talent and a positive image are sure to be quickly replaced by more competitive stars in today's fast-food entertainment era.

Wu's case has sounded an alarm for the industry. Wu's story of being the first-generation top-tier player may be over, but it is just the beginning of the streaming stars with "empty shell."