A topic for a simple, observation-based research project on Chinese celebrities?
April 17, 2007 3:07 AM   Subscribe

A topic for a simple, observation-based research project on Chinese celebrities?

I'm working on a small research project based on my observations of Chinese celebrities and fame.

The only thing I can come up is: "In Chinese media, there is an obsession with European physical appearances", which won't be too hard because visual information is easily observed - just have to look at commercials, billboards and magazines.

I have 3 questions, but you don't have to answer all of them but if you can... Great! :)

Question 1: what do you think of this as a topic?

Question 2: what sort of things should I keep in mind while I carry out my observations or where are good places to look?

Question 3: Any other simple observation topics you can suggest for me? Below are other things that interest me but unable to come up with a simple observational topic for any of them...

How celebrities are consumed, what type of physical features or personality are revered, what are the demands for new faces in movies, tv, music, politics, etc and the demographics driving it.

Thanks in advance for a speedy reply - time is running low!

Btw, I currently reside in Hangzhou, China.
posted by gttommy to Society & Culture (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
"In Chinese media, there is an obsession with European physical appearances" - I don't get this sense at all.
I'd say (off the top of my head) most white faces you see in the media are there because they represent 'foreignness," which has a cachet in many contexts (old guys selling medicine pretending to be doctors, young fashion models), rather than there being any particular appeal to white physical attributes.
How about changing images of young women in the light of TV shows like Super Girls? My sense is that young women celebrities have got a bit more down-home in the wake of this and similar programmes. You could look at TV commercials, billboards and magazine covers on news stands for that, though baselines from the past might be tricky (some mags will have websites where you can look at past cover girls).
posted by Abiezer at 3:38 AM on April 17, 2007

Brain still whirring - what about the relatively recent fashion for Korean pop culture? I believe there have been similar fads for Japanese and Hong Kong looks and styles. Maybe map that to time-lines of other cultural products like songs, films and soap operas.
posted by Abiezer at 3:41 AM on April 17, 2007

Response by poster: Abiezer: I'd say (off the top of my head) most white faces you see in the media are there because they represent 'foreignness,"

Hmm I think it isn't just any foreignness, it is particularly Western-European foreignness that they seem to idolise. But I could be wrong which is something the research is supposed to show.

The transfer of looks and styles from neighbouring Asian countries? Sounds cool. Keep 'em coming!
posted by gttommy at 4:13 AM on April 17, 2007

I was just chatting with a Chinese friend and asked what they thought - we did agree it's that idea that "foreign is advanced/sophisticated" that counts most, rather than purely looks (might be arguing at cross purposes here). So a white model in a dress will make you think "Paris, fashion," balding engineer type will be "German engineering," but they're signifiers of non-physical "goods" associated with abroad.
Couldn't get any better project ideas out of the friend.
posted by Abiezer at 4:32 AM on April 17, 2007

It's not just Europe/Western faces - Pan-Asian faces are what they're after. Passing for both Asian and Western at the same time.
posted by divabat at 4:41 AM on April 17, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks, I see what you mean Abiezer. Maybe I should re-word the topic title... or maybe not, for a bit of controversy hehe

divabat: Yeah, from what I've seen Pan-Asian is desirable mainly because of the foreign aspect of it.
posted by gttommy at 5:13 AM on April 17, 2007

Desperately trying to come up with something having shot your current plan down :D
There's been an increasing awareness of the value of charity and public service work (公益) by celebrities, and then there's the shift of those kind of endorsements from purely official to also commercial mirroring the transition to a full-blown market economy.
Thinking of Pu Cunxin doing the HIV/AIDS campaigns, and lesser lights trying to revive flagging careers with similar, and the like. Any mileage in something along those lines?
posted by Abiezer at 5:40 AM on April 17, 2007

Oh yes, a reword would be better than a whole new direction. (Should read more carefully) . Maybe fewer geeky foreigners (你好大山!) and fake doctors engineers and more sexy ones, also mirroring commercial trends/shifting social mores/whatever.
Also, one thing my friend thought was that the popularity of Korean celebs and whatnot as opposed to the Japanese stars of yore was likely linked to regional politics and increasing tensions/ anti-Japanese sentiment flaring up again recently.
posted by Abiezer at 5:47 AM on April 17, 2007

Response by poster: That seems alright but it seems a little specific and probably requires alot more textual reading. I think I'll stick to something along the lines of my original topic as it seems easier to do - just observing and notetaking.

So what's wrong with "In Chinese media, there is an obsession with European physical appearances"? You say that European-looks is often used because it represents foreignness, which is an explanation behind the statement, not an argument against the statement, right?

My Chinese is bad btw so reading Chinese or watching the news won't work for now.
posted by gttommy at 6:19 AM on April 17, 2007

Best answer: Hmm. Then maybe how about do a random selection of TV hours and note all foreign appearances in either commercials or programming, and score it on a scale of positive/negative intent, supplemented with some fleshed-out qualitative impressions?
posted by Abiezer at 6:24 AM on April 17, 2007

Response by poster: That is a good idea, and what a comfortable way of gathering information! If only there weren't so many channels to choose from...
posted by gttommy at 6:32 AM on April 17, 2007

Plus they're all unwatchable drivel. Rather you than me, as I don't think sports channels would count.
posted by Abiezer at 6:37 AM on April 17, 2007

Seconding the recommendation to look into the effect of the "Korean wave" on China. I think the recent popularity of Korean movies, TV dramas, and music does not have anything to do directly with an anti-Japanese sentiment. It's just that the amount of high-quality movies and TV dramas coming out of Korea, coupled with the relative cultural familiarty and the perception of Korea as an advanced East Asian country makes them a good substitute for Japan(who are still associated with the war, emulating western culture, etc.) I also agree with posters earlier in that the European physical appearance is not so appealing in itself but is associated with foreignness, fashion, high tech, etc.
posted by pravit at 9:48 AM on April 17, 2007

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