Dior’s explanation fails to convince Chinese netizens over controversial photo of spooky Asian woman
Published: Nov 23, 2021 10:58 PM
Photo: Web

The controversial photo of Chinese photographer Chen Man that shows a model with spooky eyelids and dark skin dressed in traditional Chinese clothing and holding a Dior bag. Photo: Web

French fashion brand Dior on Tuesday tried to clarify a controversial photo by well-known Chinese photographer Chen Man displayed at its Shanghai fashion exhibition, saying it was not a commercial ad for the brand and the company had removed all related content from both online and offline platforms. 

The brand said on Sina Weibo that the photo, which shows a model with spooky eyelids and dark skin dressed in traditional Chinese clothing and holding a Dior bag, is only a photo that was part of the art project. The brand would continue to respect the feelings of the Chinese people, abide by Chinese laws, and cooperate with related authorities to strictly review all works that would be displayed to the public, it said. 

However, 11 days have passed since the controversial photo was first seen by the public at the exhibition at the West Bund Art Center in Shanghai on November 12, making some Chinese netizens doubt the sincerity of the French brand.

"The explanation looks sincere, but as organizer you should have strictly reviewed the works on display in the exhibition," a Weibo user said.  

"No matter whether it is Dior's ad or just a work displayed at its exhibition, it is Dior's decision to show it to the public, Dior can't evade responsibility for the issue," Beijing-based film critic Shi Wenxue told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Some netizens defended the brand and Chen, saying that the photo is not meant to insult Chinese people but only shows a different taste in beauty. 

Shi pointed out that the basis for beauty is being real. "The photo is showing a stereotyped and prejudiced image of Chinese and Asian people in the West's eyes. It is not even real, let alone beautiful," he said. 

It is not the first time Dior has been involved in scandals in China. In 2019, one of its staff members displayed a map of China that omitted the island of Taiwan at a company recruitment event.

"It is not the first time these international brands made such mistakes, but how can you wake someone who is pretending to sleep?" Shi said.

About 20 minutes before Dior's explanation, Chen Man also released an apology on Weibo. She only apologized for a series of works titled Young Pioneer created in 2008, and did not say a word about the Dior photo that lit a fuse. 

According to photos circulating on the internet, the Young Pioneer photos include images of a young girl wearing almost see-through clothes taking pictures of some landmarks and iconic achievements of China, like the Three Gorges Dam and China's first lunar orbiter Chang'e-1. 

In one photo, the girl's skirt flies up, showing her underwear, and the Chang'e-1 flies out from under the skirt. 

In China, "young pioneer" refers to child who is a member of the Chinese Young Pioneers (CYP). The organization is led by the Communist Party of China (CPC), and it is viewed as an organization of potential members of the CPC. According to the Xinhua News Agency, the CYP currently has about 130 million members aged 6 to 14. 

Thus, the series of photos were seriously criticized by netizens as being implicit child pornography and insulting the young pioneers. 

"I have read all the comments on my previous series of works Young Pioneer, and I have deeply reflected on myself and felt so remorseful for my childishness and ignorance at that time. Here, I decide to make an official apology to the public," Chen wrote in a statement released on her Sina Weibo Tuesday afternoon. 

Chen said she lacked an artistic view when creating the series of photos and misused the concept of young pioneers. She said she had removed all related content of the young pioneer series from various platforms. 

Chen and Dior's moves came on the same day that China's top internet regulator said it will establish a negative list to prevent celebrity-related content from promoting distorted values, including abnormal aesthetics, hyping of vulgar scandals, and content that induces fans to blindly idolize celebrities or that hypes the comeback of entertainers who have illegal and unethical records.