Popularization of Deviance and Demoralization: The Case of Chinese Cyber Fandom Culture

Wanqi Huang, Angela Wang

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This study examines the process in which deviant discourse and actions online emerging as popular culture among young users of Chinese internet. By deviance, we particularly refer to online actions that are contradict and in conflict with public interests and concerns, such as issues related to public health and education. Particularly, we set the research Page 52 context within fandom culture for two reasons. First, fandom has become one of the dominant forms of online social phenomenon (Yan & Liu, 2021). Second, with the proliferation of digital technologies and their norms of participation, fans are witnessed with more discursive power in terms of shaping and influencing how idols conduct self-presentation (Jenkins, 2009). As such, the empowerment of fans granted by the technologies also benefit the group of netizens who are willing to compromise self-gratifications at the expense of public interests. In fact, this has become a popular culture in the Chinese cyber fandom culture (Gray, 2003)[WD1] .

Different from other forms of representing deviance self, such as trolling and spreading uncivil words, deviant fandom takes its new form that echoes the essence of popular culture with the ends of enrolling more participants. We argue that the popularizing process of deviance fandom is driven by the platform economy with ultimate goal of network traffic. This shed same light with Snierk’s (2018) view on the exploitive nature of platform economy, and Frankfort School’s critique of devalue creativity, authentic human relation and morality (Storey, 2018).

Three case studies were conducted to better examine and explore the process and meanings of popularizing deviance fandom culture. The cases are Kris Wu Yifan scandal, Liu Xuezhou suicide, and Ding Zhen’s popularization. Each case has its fan circle, and deviant fan patterns. Preliminary data have shown to us three patterns in the process of popularizing deviant fandom: 1) de-publicizing the moral nature of the event; 2) distracting rational views from de-moralized majority opinions generated by bots; and 3) ritualization of stateconstructed idols. The findings indicate not only the current complicate fandom culture on the Chinese internet, but also how publicness and morality are eroded by the platform structure.

[WD1]Gray, Jonathan. "New audiences, new textualities: Anti-fans and non-fans." International journal of cultural studies 6.1 (2003): 64-81.


ConferenceInternational Association for Media and Communication Research Conference (IAMCR 2022)
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Scopus Subject Areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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