China’s Internet regulation agency has ordered its Internet service providers to create a blacklist of content creators who use “vulgar hype” and celebrity gossip to build a following. The regulator also called for celebrities with “abnormal aesthetic” to be blacklisted.
The term “abnormal aesthetic” is commonly used to describe transgender and other unconventional lifestyles in China, including feminized men, which China recently placed a ban on in the media.
“Online celebrity culture and vulgar hype have been subjected to repeated bans in recent years,” stated the CyberSpace Administration, China’s online regulator, in a statement reported by Radio Free Asia.
“A clickbait culture that promotes abnormal aesthetics and sows discord among fans [is] having a negative impact on mainstream values,” the statement continued. “The content offered about some celebrities online is below-standard, and filled with gossip and revelations about private matters, while taking up space in headlines and hot search lists.”
Publications like TMZ and Page Six and even fandom-driven websites like Tumblr would have a hard time surviving in China, where such content — while popular — is coming under strict prohibitions by the Chinese authorities concerned with social stability.
The leading position among the Chinese intelligentsia is that such content, while perfectly within the realm of individual expression, has a detrimental effect on impressionable viewers.
Curiously, China, which controls TikTok, allows for deviant trends to proliferate on the video-sharing platform in the west. In China, trending topics are strictly moderated to prevent the widespread dissemination of so-called degenerate content.
“A blacklist should be set up, and entertainment and celebrity content that promotes abnormal aesthetics, vulgar scandal, false disclosures … or promotes star-chasing and other irrational behavior should be prevented from spreading,” the directive stated.
China has moved to ban transgender aesthetics and other forms of “abnormality” in recent months, following concerns over the rise in androgyny and demasculinization of men influenced by foreign cultures. China’s official media outlets promote masculinity and so-called “wolf warriors” as acceptable examples of male aesthetics.
China’s move is in contrast to the west, where woke activists promote the concept of “toxic masculinity” and emphasize the need for men to embrace lifestyles outside of the gender binary, which they claim is an aspect of white supremacist culture, first popularized on the fandom website Tumblr.
According to the directive, Internet platforms must set up systems for monitoring popular accounts and punish those found to promote deviant or substandard content due to their social responsibility.
The move is receiving pushback from a number of unconventional Chinese artists who say that it will effectively make it impossible for them to pursue their careers, Radio Free Asia reported.
According to Chinese cultural commentator Bi Xin, the Chinese communist party’s ultimate aim is to eradicate celebrity culture and place a strict limit on the public's consumption of gossip and fleeting trends.
“This is all about placing controls on stars and online celebrities, on fan culture, and the phenomenon of fandom as a whole,” Bi told RFA. “It’s an ideological weak point for China.”
“The importance of these idols has taken on mythical proportions in these fan clubs, meaning that the uptake of CCP ideological propaganda in these groups is very low,” he said. “They are worshiping the wrong idols; they want to stop the worship of celebrities.”
“If they fall through the cracks of CCP mainstream ideological education, they will become a stability maintenance concern,” he added. “That’s why they are constantly tightening controls over celebrity content.”
“They can’t allow it to escalate, or it could be very hard to control.”