Sophomore English Class Three (autumn 2018) Reading and making judgements: The interesting case of Fan Bing Bing

Dear Students,

today we’re going to use the films of the actress Fan Bingbing and the recent tax evasio controversy as topics to help us practice expressing a point of view in English, and more specifically, making judgements (about films, celebrity values, public values).

First, let’s see what we know and think about some of Fan Bing Bing’s work (her movies, or tv series if you know them, and the products she advertises).

Here’s a list of a few I thought of. Some of these movies have received positive reviews from film critics, and others … not so good.

Kong tian lie .… Sky Hunter …
Wo bu shi Pan Jinlian … I am not Madame Bovary
Song qi… Double Exposure
Guan yi shan… Buddha Mountain
Rizhaao Chongqing … Chongqing Blues
Pingguo … Lost in Beijing
Ai qing hu jiao zhuan yi … Call for Love
Qing dian da sheng … A Chinese Tall Story

Quick Group discussion: film and tv critics

What do you know?  Tell each other what you know and make judgements about the actress Fan Bingbing’s film and tv work.

  1. Start by practicing your film and tv critic skills. Tell eachother about one film or series that you think is particularly good or bad, and explain why.
  2. What do you think of the films and/or tv series Fan Bingbing has acted in? Tell each other what you thought of the film/series, and then what you thought of Fan Bingbing’s acting within it(Try to discuss at least three works).

Readings

Next, let’s read these modified versions of a couple of newspaper articles about Fan Bingbing (including an article Tiger News shared for one of their weekly free readings).

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Article 1. “China is Dimming It’s Biggest Star”

Adapted from Bloomberg Opinion Piece by Adam Minter, Sun, Sep 16 2018

China is cracking down on celebrities like Fan Bingbing.

By late spring, Fan Bingbing, China’s most popular actress, had become a cultural powerhouse. She had 63 million followers on Weibo, and had advertising contracts with famous luxury brands like Guerlain, De Beers, and Montblanc.

VCG

The actress has starred in Chinese and Hollywood blockbusters, had become an international star, and China’s wealthiest actress.

cannes
Fan Bingbing, juror at Cannes Film Festival

That’s all been snuffed out now, thanks to a tax-evasion scandal and a government campaign to slash the influence of China’s celebrities.

Ms. Fan is one of many wealthy stars who owed some of their success to the Chinese film industry practice of issuing two contracts, one of which remains secret for tax purposes (the “yin-yang” system). That meant the stars could avoid paying tax on a large part of their earnings.

Ms. Fan’s disappearance raises questions about the relationship between government, filmmaking, and popular culture.

China’s film industry has been on the rise, and its filmmakers have challenged the dominance of Hollywood filmmakers. For example, the Fan Bingbing starring comedy Lost in Thailand sold more tickets than any other film previously had, including those made in Hollywood.

lostinthailand

Party leaders, however, criticised the kind of celebrity culture made famous by stars like Fan Bingbing for being out-of-tune with the Marxist principle that ordinary people are just as important as powerful people (including film celebrities). For these leaders, Fan Bingbing was the face of the ‘celebrity culture’ that promoted the values of money, “over-the-top extravagance and other … indulgences.”

Ms Fan Bingbing has been the object of a tactic known as “killing the chicken to scare the monkey“. Government hopes her treatment might discourage people from adopting the values she represented.

Punishing celebrities like Fan Bingbing might not be an unpopular move. News of her alleged tax evasion (and high pay) caused public outrage and badly dented her image. Support for this kind of punishment accords with the popularity of President Xi Jiping’s anti-corruption campaign.

Adam Minter argues that “in a China where cash is king ,the success of stars like Ms. Fan  should have been cause for celebration”. He argues that restricting film and it;s stars to those in line with Marxist values, might limit the growth of China’s film industry.

We might think of the recent American success of a film like Crazy Rich Asians.

The film’s story follows Rachel Chu, an American-born Chinese economics professor, who travels to her boyfriend Nick’s hometown of Singapore for his best friend’s wedding. Before long, his secret is out: Nick is from a family that is impossibly wealthy, he’s perhaps the most eligible bachelor in Asia, and every single woman in his ultra-rarefied social class is incredibly jealous of Rachel and wants to bring her down (imbd)crazy_rich_asia.

Crazy Rich Americans is a romantic comedy. One of the serious things it does is celebrate the success and wealth of Asian people in Asia and America.

Could, or should this kind of film be made in China?

Would it be in line with President Xi’s values?

Would someone like Fan Bingbing be allowed to star in it?

 

 

Let’s discuss the article and these and other questions in a little while, along with another article from The Guardian newspaper.

First we should review the words and phrases that might need some explanation. Take five minutes to read through the list of words and phrases below. Once you’ve read through it you can ask me to clarify any that you don’t understand.

Vocabulary Review for article one

relating to music, art, theatre, literature, etc.

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cultural activities ????
a cultural centre (= a place with a lot of museums, theatres, etc.) ????
a cultural desert/wasteland(= a place without museums, theatres, etc.) ???????
  • cultural (way of life) (second of two definitions)

relating to the habits, traditions, and beliefs of a society

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The US is often accused of cultural imperialism. ????????????????
Australia has its own cultural identity, which is very different from that of Britain. ???????????????????????
cultural diversity/differences ????????
cultural heritage (= ways of living and thinking that have existed for a longtime in a society) ????

 

  • blockbuster

        a book or film that is very successful

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        a blockbuster movie/novel ????????????

 

  • snuff[sn?f] v. ??
    • to stop a candle burning by pressing the burning part with your fingers or by covering it
  • “on the rise”

becoming increasingly successful, prominent

  • out-of-tune

    ???

    • out of tune with someone ??????
    • out of harmony/agreement
  •  “the face of”

someone who represents something, some organisation, business

  • over-the-top

when something is too much; excessive behaviour

  • “indulgences”

  •  here the use of parenthesis “” indicate that a polite term (indulgences)  is standing in form a more critical term (in this case illegal drugs)

an indulgence is occasion when you allow someone or yourself to have something enjoyable, especially more than is good for you:

  • “killing the chicken to scare the monkey”

    • ????? (make an example of)
  • “badly dented”

seriously damaged (like a car might be in a hail storm)

  ????

Article 2. “Fan Bingbing’s mysterious disappearance: what it means for China’s elite”

Three months ago, one of the country’s best known actors went missing. Now, seemingly chastened, she has reappeared with a bill for £112m in unpaid taxes and fines …

Fan’s first public communication since July was a grovelling confession on Weibo: “For a long time, I did not distinguish between national, social and personal interests,” she wrote. “As a public figure, I should abide by the law, and play a leading role in society and industry … Without the good policies of the party and the state, and without the love of the people, there would be no Fan Bingbing.” In short, Fan seems to have been made an example of.

China’s movie industry … is poised to overtake the US as the world’s biggest film territory. This cultural explosion has brought in a new breed of moneyed celebrity, some of whom have no inhibitions about its wealth.

But this summer the authorities apparently decided to take action. Already the content of Chinese films is carefully vetted and must promote “core socialist values”. Then, in June, official agencies announced a joint clampdown on actors’ pay, citing not only tax evasion but “money worship”, “the youth blindly chasing celebrities” and “distorted social values”. ..

ws_01_40_03
Officials in scene from Wo bu shi Pan Jinlian, starring Fan Bingbing

More than the regulatory crackdown, it is the nature of Fan’s disappearance that has sent a jolt through Chinese society. According to reports, Fan was detained at a “holiday resort” in Wuxi, under a 2013 legal framework known as “residential surveillance at a designated location”… A commentator suggested that “… the implication is clear: if the authorities can get to the biggest celebrity in the land, they can get to anyone”.

Vocabulary Review for article two

chasten

uk /?t?e?.s?n/ us /?t?e?.s?n/formal

grovel

uk /??r?v.?l/ us /??r??.v?l/-ll- usually -l-

 

to behave with too much respect towards someone to show that you are very eager to please them

??????????????

He sent a grovelling note of apology. ??????????????

 

cultural explosion

rapid growth and proliferation of a culture (i.e., Chinese film culture)

inhibition noun (embarrassment]

uk /??n.h??b??.?n/ us /??n.h??b??.?n/

C2 [C or U] a feeling of embarrassment or worry that prevents you from saying or doing what you want

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After a couple of drinks he lost his inhibition and started talking and laughing loudly. ????????????????????
She was determined to shed her inhibitions and have a good time. ????????????

 

vetted verb [T] uk /vet/us /vet/-tt- mainly UK

to examine something or someone carefully to make certain that they are acceptable or suitable

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During the war, the government vetted all news reports before they were published. ?????????????????????????
The bank carefully vets everyone who applies for an account. ??????????????????????

 

distorted

adjective

uk /d??st??.t?d/us /d??st??r.t??d/

changed from the usual, original, natural, or intendedform

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This report gives a somewhat distorted impression of what actuallyhappened. ?????????
The music just gets distorted when you play it so loud. ??????????????
His face was distorted in agony. ??????????

 

jolt

verb (move suddenly)

uk /d???lt/us /d?o?lt/

[I or T, usually + adv/prep] to (cause something or someone to) move suddenly and violently

?????????????

The train stopped unexpectedly and we were jolted forwards. ????????????????????
The truck jolted along the roughtrack through the field. ?????????????????

 

designate

verb [T]

uk /?dez.??.ne?t/us /?dez.??.ne?t/

a) to say officially that a place or thing has a particularcharacter or purpose

????????????

This area of the park has been specially designated for children. ?????????????????
They officially designated the area (as) unsuitable for human habitation. ???????????????????????

 

b) to choose someone officially to do a particular job

????????

Traditionally, the president designates his or her successor. ???????????????

Discussion: making judgements and expressing a point of view

Working in your small groups discuss the following questions.

  1. What are the main points of the Bloomberg and Guardian articles. Compare the articles. Describe where the articles are similar and where they differ.
  2. What do you know about the celebrity culture the actress represents? What do you think about its celebration of fashion, beauty, and luxury? Are there other values that Fan Bingbing represents? If so, what are they? What do you think of them?
  3. Crazy Rich Americans is a romantic comedy. One of the serious things it does is celebrate the success and wealth of Asian people in Asia and America.Could, or should this kind of film be made in China?Would it be in line with President Xi’s values?

    Would someone like Fan Bingbing be allowed to star in it?

  4. What do you think of the very high pay and tax evasion of star performers and other wealthy individuals? What do you think of the public outrage and crackdown on this kind of behaviour?

 

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