Tonight I was lying on the couch reading The Economist (as an AMP is wont to do on a raucous spring break night) when a slight, almost hidden little article caught my attention.
First, watch this, something I am forever grateful to Mel for turning me onto.
Now, read this, from The Economist
HUANG YIXIN and Wei Wei, two students at the Guangzhou College of Fine Arts, were hanging around their dormitory last summer and decided—as one does—to turn on their webcam, put on their Houston-Rockets jerseys and lip-synch a few of their favourite songs by the Backstreet Boys. They uploaded the clips to Google Video, a free website full of such stuff. Their grimaces are over the top, self-consciously ludicrous. And they became famous almost instantly.
Astonishingly famous. Almost every Chinese internet user under a certain age has seen the “Back Dormitory Boys”, [and now, so have you! what would you do without Mel and me?] as they are now called. Web forums discuss their private lives. National radio and television shows have hosted them. Even their roommate, just visible in the background playing computer games, gets celebrity treatment.
Last month, a media company in Beijing called Taihe Rye hired Messrs Huang and Wei to continue their lip-synching, for cash. Song Ke, the boss, says that he has already placed his clients in a television commercial to be filmed next month for Pepsi Cola, one of China's largest advertisers. The plan, says Zhao Qian, another manager at Taihe, is to put the Back Dormitory Boys together with their idol, Yao Ming, a Chinese basketball prodigy who plays centre for the Houston Rockets. Messrs Huang and Wei will thus join the company of such global celebrities as David Beckham, Ronaldinho Gaucho and Janet Jackson as a public face of Pepsi in China.
To some of China's professors and cadres, all this is further confirmation, if any were needed, that the country has taken a worrisome turn. They had barely recovered from Sister Lotus, a young lady who published provocative photos of herself online in order to find love only to find fame instead, at least until the government censored her. Then came that other grassroots celebrity (also a Taihe client), Li Yuchun, a boyish-looking girl who became champion on “Super Girls”, a television show that lets viewers vote for their favourite star, who also unleashed potentially worrying amounts of enthusiasm for voting. And now the Back Dormitory Boys. The phenomenon indicates a modern social illness, says Pan Zhibiao, who is vice-president of the Guangdong Provincial Society of Aesthetics, and thus, of course, an expert in such matters.
You Go Boys!