|Illustration: Peter C. Espina/GT
Recently, there were reports that E-E Media, which produces Super Boy, Hunan TV's popular singing contest, is planning to shoot a film about this year's Super Boy. They're claiming that the film will be a shining example of "fan films." When I saw the news, I broke into a cold sweat. I'm not concerned that the company may lose money making this predictably tacky film. I worry that superficial media will monopolize the attention of the youngsters who are considered to be the main consumers of movies. Watching too many crappy films can spoil a person's ability to appreciate really good ones.
I am not rushing to judgment that E-E Media's film will certainly be crappy. No, my judgment is based on years of personal experience watching a soap opera they produce, which often features young TV idols. Despite its mindlessness, this terrible TV series is renewed year after year because of fan demand.
Similarly, in the contemporary Chinese film market, financial success has become the dominant metric for whether a film should be emulated. I don't think that using box office receipts as a measure of success is absolutely wrong. However, if this leads to the overpopularity of "fan films," the Chinese film industry will regress rather than progress.
When high-quality films fail to attract audiences while low-cost films stuffed with pretty young idols become the mainstream, is there any hope that China will someday make its own Avatar?
Mysterious Island was a 2012 horror film that starred one of the hottest Chinese actresses, Yang Mi. It was crowned by the media as the film that launched the "fan film" era in China. It cost only four million yuan ($653,560) to make, but raked in over 100 million yuan at the box office.
One of Yang's fans claimed to have paid to see the film six times to show his support for Yang. If the film were good, such fan behavior would be understandable. But the truth is that this horror film was not scary at all, and the only highlight was Yang's big bosom.
Yang starred in two other films this year, Tiny Times 1 and Tiny Times 2, directed by Guo Jingming. By earning more than 780 million yuan in ticket sales, they represent the triumph of fan films.
All of the Tiny Times actors and actresses, who already have large fan followings, are young and pretty. The director made use of their beauty to the extreme. Even the male characters had to show off their meticulously defined abdominal muscles.
I believe that it's difficult for filmgoers to cultivate their aesthetic taste if they only watch superficial films like these. An eye transfixed by beauty is the enemy of thinking. One film theorist has stated that audiences derive satisfaction from the film by relating to the characters in the films. When people in the audience look up at the screen and see only expensive merchandise, callow youth and empty beauty, what kind of humanity can they explore?
Like a good book, a quality film can not only arouse your emotions but also provoke you to think. Young fans, instead of spending time and money on pop idols, please pick up a well-reviewed book or try watching a critically acclaimed film. The artists who created them need applause - and more importantly, money to continue developing their talent.
The ideas expressed are those of the author alone, and do not represent the position of the People's Daily Online.