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1 Celebrity/China* Celebrity is a pervasive aspect of everyday life and a growing field of academic inquiry. There is now a substantial body of literature on celebrity culture in Australia, Europe and the Americas. This literature covers a wide variety of fields, including: film, literature, popular music, political, and sports stardom; celebrity CEOs, and the relationship between the media and celebrity.1 All of these texts seek to understand why the production and consumption of celebrity has become such a common feature of life in recent decades. Some commentators regard celebrity as epitomizing the trivial and deplorable aspects of popular culture (e.g. Boorstin 1972). But increasing numbers of others are concerned to understand the way cultural and economic shifts have helped create a mass-mediated celebrity industry and also to examine the social functions of celebrity, particularly its relation to new forms of individual and community identity (Hartley 2005; Marshall 1997, 2004, 2006; Redmond and Holmes 2007; Turner 2004). Despite the extent of this scholarship, there is no parallel body of work for the world’s most rapidly expanding cultural marketplace — the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Celebrity culture is flourishing in China, often in ways that appear to mirror the production and consumption of celebrity in wealthy, industrialized nations. Stories about domestic and international celebrities are now a staple feature of the Chinese media and internationally successful formats for celebrity Elaine Jeffreys and Louise Edwards * This research was made possible by a grant from the Australian Research Council. Elaine Jeffreys and Louise Edwards 2 production are adopted with alacrity. The PRC has its own version of Idol, the music talent television show, in the form of the hugely successful Mongolian Cow Yoghurt Super Girl Contest. The 2006 winner garnered five million text-message votes from domestic and overseas Chinese (‘Look-alike’ 2006). China’s official news service, Xinhua, produces a list of the nation’s top ten sports stars. Major web portals, such as Sina.com and Baidu.com, produce lists of the PRC’s 100 most influential individuals and the most popular female singers, male singers, ‘beautiful girls’ (meinü) and ‘handsome boys’ (shuaige). PRC celebrities appear in political campaigns in a fashion akin to their counterparts’ in the USA. For example, gold medallists from the Chinese Olympics team paraded to adoring crowds in Hong Kong just days prior to the 2008 Hong Kong Legco elections, helping to buttress support for pro-PRC candidates. The connections between global and Chinese celebrity systems were made manifest when Forbes.com issued its inaugural list of the PRC’s top 100 power-ranking celebrities in 2004. As with the USA list, China’s celebrities are ranked by combining income from salaries and endorsements with the number of times they appear in various media formats (Forbes China Staff 2008). The case of basketball player Yao Ming, who features in both international and domestic Chinese celebrity lists for his success in the USA National Basketball League, and the case of Hong Kong martial arts film star Jackie Chan, highlight the links between Chinese and global celebrity systems (Fore 1997; Oates and Polumbaum 2004). Both men were the face of Visa and the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and carry recognizable celebrity status inside and outside of China. Yao Ming has topped the Forbes’ China celebrity list for the last six years (Forbes China Staff 2008). Similarly, athletics hero and hurdler Liu Xiang secured lucrative deals with Visa, Coca Cola and Nike after winning gold at the Athens Olympics. His huge national profile prompted Nike to dedicate a shoe and apparel line, ‘Liu’, in advance of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, just as they had for Michael Jordan in the mid-1980s (Lee 2008; Smith 2007). Although there is extensive scholarship on the PRC’s changing media and popular culture scene, this research has rarely explored the specific forms of celebrity that exist in China today and their operation in everyday life.2 Celebrity in China fills this gap by exploring how the PRC’s celebrity culture incorporates aspects of global, capitalist practices into local Chinese systems. These local systems draw on traditional notions of fame in fertile interaction with the economic reforms, which began 3 Celebrity/China in December 1978, and the influence of the celebrity systems operating in Hong Kong and Taiwan. From 1978 China shifted from a planned economy to one based on market mechanisms and gradually opened the country to international trade and foreign investment. The PRC’s move towards...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9789882205222
Related ISBN
9789622090873
MARC Record
OCLC
707092627
Pages
300
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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