For Vladislav Ivanov (aka Lelush), being lastly kicked out of Produce Camp 2021 was a dream come true. In February, Ivanov signed up for the Chinese language boy-band survival present however immediately regretted it. Since then he has tried all means to get voted off in order to not breach his contract. Nevertheless, his dejected look, half-hearted efficiency and direct pleas to let him go had the alternative impact. Not solely did Ivanov make it into the ultimate, however he has additionally turn into an icon of China’s Sang tradition (sang wenhua).
The Chinese language character “sang” (丧) is extracted from compound phrases and idioms that counsel an absence of braveness, vigour and liveliness. These are phrases comparable to “tui sang” (dispirited), “ju sang” (annoyed), “hui xin sang qi” (disheartened) and “chui tou sang qi” (dejected).
Such emotions, alongside self-deprecation and pessimism, have in the previous couple of years come to be unabashedly celebrated in China in a definite youth subculture often called often called Sang tradition. Because of social media platforms comparable to Weibo (the Chinese language model of Twitter) and WeChat, this subculture is maintained and unfold by humorous memes and cynical sayings that flip the state of dejection right into a sought-after fashion.
Many Chinese language media students hint the emergence of Sang to the viral “Ge You Slouch” meme in 2016. The meme started as a screenshot of Ge You, a number one movie comedy actor, in his position as a dishevelled idler slouching on a settee in a Nineties’ TV sitcom.
Some on Weibo reinterpreted Ge You’s poor posture as the total acceptance of a state of dejection, and the catchphrase “I’m a complete wreck” was quickly added to the picture.
Quickly after, a handful of cartoon characters, together with the self-loathing cynical alcoholic BoJack and depressed Pepe the Frog, additionally reached iconic standing, turning into the embodiment of Sang tradition. Self-justifying, humorous expressions comparable to “life is a collection of closing doorways” and “lie down flat the place life knocks you down” additionally turned common.
An antidote to unrealistic positivity
Chinese language millennials’ embrace of Sang tradition is a quiet deviation from China’s mainstream political ideology, in addition to a blatant rejection of the fashionable tendency for overdosed positivity and productiveness.
Since Xi Jinping took workplace in 2012, the Chinese language Communist Celebration has turned a grassroots catchphrase “optimistic power” (zheng nengliang) right into a political buzzword. In doing so it has instrumentalised “selling optimistic power” for political targets. Based on the Chinese language research tutorial Francesca Triggs, the “optimistic power” discourse stresses the social duty of particular person residents. It is usually used to justify the state’s management over the web for the aim of safeguarding the well being of our on-line world, and to form ideological consensus and public opinion.
Parallel to the “optimistic power” ideology propagated by the get together is the neoliberal fable of self-making. Chinese language bookstores have total sections dedicated to superstar entrepreneur and their “do-it-yourself success tales”. Such positivity has turned bitter for millennials, who bear the brunt of China’s speedy financial development.
Fierce tutorial competitors, hovering housing costs, the “996” work tradition (from 9am to 9pm each day, six days every week), and the closing off of upward mobility are a few of the harsh realities confronted by younger individuals. For them, embracing “Sang”, or having a defeatist angle in the direction of life and self, is a technique to deal with an unsure future and a solution to bond with their friends.
The unfold of Sang tradition in China has invited commodification. “Achieved-absolutely-nothing black tea”, “Failed-to-lose-weight latte”, and different Sang-themed merchandise have achieved some popularlity amongst millenials.
It’s common for a subculture to lose its edge after being commodified on this approach. However Ivanov’s unlucky superstar within the boy band actuality present demonstrates that Sang tradition can exploit industrial curiosity to bolster itself and consequently have a real-life affect. Ivanov’s half-hearted efficiency on stage endeared younger Chinese language audiences as a result of they knew that he was not performing however “being” himself. They noticed this Russian man as “one among us”.
Chinese language audiences bonded emotionally with Ivanov. They needed to put him by the ordeal of all the season’s competitors, simply as they should toil day in and day trip. This begs the query: had Ivanov recognized about Sang tradition and that his dejection would win him followers, would he have determined to strive tougher?
Xiaoning Lu doesn’t work for, seek the advice of, personal shares in or obtain funding from any firm or organisation that may profit from this text, and has disclosed no related affiliations past their tutorial appointment.