Earlier generations of Western scholars often regarded nonheterosexual desires, identities, and intimacies in Chinese-speaking contexts as marginalized, stigmatized, and silenced, if not completely invisible, in mainstream mediascapes and pop cultural spaces. However, in contemporary Chinese and Sinophone contexts, queer practices, images, and narratives voiced, either explicitly or implicitly, by media producers, performers, and consumers or fans who do not necessarily self-identify as LGBTQ are common and even proliferating. These manifestations of queer Chinese media and pop culture are diverse and widespread in both online and offline spaces. In the new millennium, with the rise of queer Asian, queer Chinese, and queer Sinophone studies, scholars have strived to move away from Euro-American-centric and Japanese-centric queer media studies and theories when examining queer Chinese-language media and cultural productions. In particular, a growing body of scholarship (in fields such as literary studies, cinema and television studies, and fan studies) has explored intersecting ways of reconceptualizing “queerness” and “Chineseness” to examine gender, sexual, and sociocultural minority cultures in Chinese-language public and pop cultural spaces. Some of the literature has usefully traced the history of the concepts “homosexuality” and “tongzhi” (comrade) in modern and contemporary China, as well as the transcultural transmission and mutations of the meanings of the English term “queer” (ku’er) in Chinese media studies. Differentiating these concepts helps clarify the theorization of and scholarly debates surrounding queer Chinese media and pop culture in the 21st century. A number of scholars have also troubled the meaning and the essentialized identity of “Chineseness” through a queer lens while decolonizing and de-Westernizing queer Chinese media and pop cultural studies. In addition, post-2010 scholarship has paid major attention to Chinese media censorship and regulations (with a close focus on the context of mainland China/the People’s Republic of China/PRC) concerning homosexual and queer content production, circulation, and consumption and how these have been circumvented in both traditional and online media spaces.
Jamie J. Zhao
A celebrity is a well-known person who commands public recognition and fascination. Although the celebrity may have existed for hundreds of years, the emergence of influencers gives rise to a new breed of celebrities on social media, who are ordinary-people-turned-experts in an area of interest (e.g., lifestyle). Together, the traditional celebrity and influencer illustrate the industry- and socially-constructed star-making processes. On the one hand, traditional celebrities’ path to fame is supported by networked media and the entertainment system. On the other hand, influencers create contents that netizens can pick and choose to like and follow, making their path to fame a socially-constructed process. Nevertheless, the star-making industries in the 21st century are embracing big data, AI, and machine-learning algorithms to “design” and “manufacture” celebrities. In so doing, they usher in a “new” industry-constructed process that has “created” K-pop stars and virtual influencers. Given the prevailing consumption culture, both the celebrity and influencer often engage in brand endorsement practices. The major strands of celebrity endorsement (CE) research highlight the celebrity, consumer, and endorsed brand. In addition to factors that can be traced directly to the celebrity (e.g., trustworthiness, attractiveness, images), CE research discusses how the celebrity’s match with a product or brand and how the celebrity’s relationship with consumers (both fans and the general public) offers important contingency factors that impact the effects of CE. Meanwhile, influencer-marketers are passionate about their area of expertise. They share their personal brand usage experiences with and provide contextualized recommendations to consumers. Their relationship with consumers is characterized by trust, intimacy, and dialogue. Without the traditional celebrity’s glamour, they use “authentic” and “similar” strategies in their self-branding efforts. These practices allow them to address the consumer’s instrumental and relational needs when making purchase decisions, an act that a traditional celebrity is less effective in making happen. Armed with big data and the like, the current star-making industries has the power and control at an unprecedented scale. The K-pop stars and virtual influencers thus created and managed have been successful. However, their path to fame raises concerns over institutional governance, regulatory control, and ethics of the celebrity and endorsement businesses as well as the means of cultural production. These issues together render celebrity studies and endorsement research a discipline both interesting and challenging to pursue.
For the past two decades, the Korean Wave has been recognized in many parts of the world, and has articulated dynamic junctures of globalization, regionalization, and localization in the realms of media and popular culture. Due to online media platforms such as streaming services, television content has been diversifying and increasing its transnational circulation. More recently, the outbound scope of K-drama and K-pop has further reached dispersed global audiences, most of whom are not Korean media consumers or fans, thanks to active use of social media, such as YouTube, in transnational media consumption. The Korean Wave can be a meaningful contra-flow in transnational pop culture. Moreover, the Korean Wave is an evolutionary cultural flow, as traced in the history of its growth. The Wave has been experiencing continuities and discontinuities in its stream for years, along with its popularity cycle, and interestingly disjuncture has shaped it differently. A set of studies of the Korean Wave should map out the presence of the Wave in the big picture of cultural globalization, beyond the pre-existing geocultural divisions. The very recent Korean Wave drives not only the flow of various kinds of content and formats but also reciprocal interchanges of diverse levels of human, financial, technological, and cultural elements; this reconstructs implied meanings of the Korean Wave and its globalizing phenomena.