An (Un)helpful Guide To C-biz Fandom – 3/3: Fandom KPIs and Comment Control

“Is the glass half-empty or half-full?” is a rhetorical expression used to indicate whether people are optimistic (half-full) or pessimistic (half-empty) toward a particular situation. 

Oddly enough, most C-biz fan circles see their glasses half-empty.

The half-empty part of the glass

If a celebrity’s current condition regarding all aspects such as health, personal life, company, resources, career success, etc. is considered a glass of water, no one, in fact, would achieve the state of completely full of water.


Fans who notice the “half-full” of the glass see the positive side – their idol is doing well, his/her colleagues treat him/her well, his/her company is working hard, etc. Meanwhile, fans who see the “half-empty” can only think of the negative side – their idol is exhausted, his/her colleagues bully him/her, his/her company doesn’t take any action to protect its artist at all, etc.

Which half do you see?

It’s not only the nature of people deciding which half they’re seeing but there is also a mechanism in Chinese fan circles called nue fen (虐粉 – roughly means “abuse fans”) that constantly emphasizes the “half-empty” part. New fans are easily influenced by all the “nue fen” materials provided by older fans.

The most common stories are: the company mistreats and takes advantage of our idol; the company doesn’t take any action to protect our idol; the company doesn’t give our idol the resources he/she deserves; his/her colleagues are trying to defame and snatch every resource from him/her; our idol is injured while working hard; our idol is exhausted physically and mentally; etc.

These pessimistic energies evoke the deepest compassion, strengthen love in every fan, and make them think “All our idol has is us. If we don’t work harder, our idol will die running out of water.” This mentality urges fans to spend more money on their idols, aggressively contribute to the idols’ data, and prevent all unfavorable opinions about the idols.

Fandom KPIs

Nowadays, fandoms are such powerful teams with highly organized activities, and sometimes, a lot of pressure. Fans are encouraged to finish a long list of tasks to achieve fandom KPIs which are believed to “fill the half-empty of the glass.” The activities vary widely, including but not limited to buying celebrities’ endorsed products or released works, reporting hateful content, comment controlling, like and share content related to celebrities, etc.

Fans who do not spend a penny on their idols or participate in any task will be labeled as bp fans (bp is short for 白嫖 /bai piao/ – literally means “white prostitute”). It is often said in the fan circles that “bp has no human rights” or “bp is not qualified to speak,” because, in some people’s perspectives, fans who say that they like the idols without doing anything substantially beneficial to their idols are not considered fans.

Very professional guidance from Karry Wang's fandom to increase his metrics on Weibo
Professional guidances from Karry Wang’s fandom to increase his data on Weibo

Chasing stars is costly these days. It has become a norm that fans have to spend money on everything celebrities release as well as products they promote. It’s also a must-do task to interact, even spam on posts and hashtags related to celebrities, especially those from celebrities’ own Weibos or those from brands and authoritative organizations.

Celebrities’ ability to generate traffic and their fans’ purchasing power represent the commercial value of celebrities to a certain extent and directly affect celebrities’ negotiating power in brand endorsements

After the "227" incident, Xiao Zhan fans became the target of public criticism, and Xiao Zhan’s stardom was severely blocked. Fans were devastated and tried their best to support him with the hope to bring him back. It resulted in his digital single “Spotlight” being a huge success with the Guinness World Records for The fastest-selling digital track in China.
After the “227” incident, Xiao Zhan fans became the target of public criticism, and Xiao Zhan’s stardom was severely blocked. Fans were devastated and tried their best to support him with the hope to bring him back. It resulted in his digital single “Spotlight” being a huge success with the Guinness World Records for The fastest-selling digital track in China.

Comment control & Anti-black

A common practice in Chinese fan circles is comment control (控评 /kong ping/). This practice is basically fans occupying all top comments (which could take even several pages) on posts or articles related to their idols, flooding them with all the praises and idols’ achievements.

Their purpose is to suppress negative or unfavorable comments to the bottom and drive the public opinions to more positive views of their idols. In case the celebrities get into some kind of trouble, comment control is a great tool for fans to promptly provide explanations and proofs to clarify the issues or drive the general public to perspectives that are beneficial to the celebrities.

Comment control originated from the Clovers - fandom of the Chinese most popular boy group TFBOYS. Those years when the boys just debuted and received a lot of hate, fans tried the best to keep Wang Junkai, Wang Yuan, and Yiyang Qianxi from seeing anti-fans’ hurtful comments.
Comment control originated from the Clovers – fandom of the Chinese most popular boy group TFBOYS. Those years when the boys just debuted and received a lot of hate, fans tried the best to keep Wang Junkai, Wang Yuan, and Yiyang Qianxi from seeing anti-fans’ hurtful comments. 

This mechanism works exactly the same as how the water armies influence public opinions. Comment control has been quickly spread out and developed to a new form of showing off fandom’s power. In an article mentioning multiple celebrities, those with the most comments on top are usually considered to be more popular and have a stronger fandom. 

Furthermore, every fandom has a professional and organized anti-black station (反黑站). Every day, station managers will compile lists of posts, comments, and accounts from anti-fans, then guide fans to report and clear out all malicious news, rumors and hateful content about their idols on the Internet.

An against-anti-fans group

Although these kinds of public opinion manipulation may create a “fake” peaceful Internet environment, it drowns out the authenticity and diversity in points of view, causing netizens to gradually lose interest in exploring more information from the comment sections.

The Public Opinion Data Center of People’s Daily Online published an article titled “Where is the limit of fans’ comment manipulation?” which pointed out that fans have used their strong organizational power to cause a negative impact on the current fandom landscape.

Emotional suffering

Despite the “all he/she has is us” mentality does benefit celebrities in terms of career prospects, it negatively affects fans’ mental health. Chasing idols which is supposedly an entertaining and happy pursuit has been twisted into exhausting and tiring additional “homework.”

Regardless of how much they try to fulfill the fandom KPIs, many overly pessimistic fans still find themselves suffering from negative emotions of constantly facing the half-empty part of the glass. They tend to overreact toward the “imaginary enemies” who could possibly be the celebrities’ colleagues or even their own studios. 

It is nothing extraordinary that several fan wars occur every day escalated from the smallest collision. Fans’ self-organized “rights protection” activities towards their idols’ studios or companies have been a common practice to protest for the celebrities’ rights. Most of the online protests have been ignored. In some cases, celebrity studios are in fact not unprofessional as how they’re described by fans. On the contrary, they are the most professional in “nue fen” strategy.

From left to right: "The rights protection" activities towards studios of Dilireba, Xiao Zhan and Yang Zi
From left to right: The “rights protection” protests towards studios of Dilireba’s, Xiao Zhan’s and Yang Zi’s fans

In contrast with the pessimists, the optimists of fandoms may appear to be not as active and aggressive, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t support the idols as much as the others do. They might just genuinely think their idols are doing really well. In many cases, the pessimists could attack the optimists for being too careless about all the “miserable situations” and label them as bp fans.

Negativity travels faster than light and influences the fandom atmosphere, especially when it comes from the big fans – the opinion leaders who have great impacts in the fan circles despite they might never have been given the authority of the “communicators” from the celebrities or their studios. 

Conclusion

Many people deeply involved in fan circles might forget the simple happiness when they just fell in love. It’s now harder for them to adjust their attention to the half-full part of the glass. All the workload and negative thoughts hinder them from enjoying the fun they should have. It’s even worse when the negativity from chasing stars affects their own real lives, turning them into pessimistic and irritable people.

It’s important to get along with our emotions and accept that the glass will never be full as life will never be perfect. Our lives, our mental health, and our dignities are more precious than anything. Fangirling should be a positive experience that fulfills our fruitful lives, not a pressure that ruins our own real lives.


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