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.
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.
- 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.
- 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).
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).
Article 1. “China is Dimming It’s Biggest Star”
Adapted from Bloomberg Opinion Piece by Adam Minter,
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.
The actress has starred in Chinese and Hollywood blockbusters, had become an international star, and China’s wealthiest actress.
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.
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 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
“cracking down on”
cultural (arts)… (first of two key definitions)
cultural (way of life) (second of two definitions)
- 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 with someone ??????
- out of harmony/agreement
“the face of”
someone who represents something, some organisation, business
when something is too much; excessive behaviour
- here the use of parenthesis “” indicate that a polite term (indulgences) is standing in form a more critical term (in this case illegal drugs)
“killing the chicken to scare the monkey”
- ????? (make an example of)
seriously damaged (like a car might be in a hail storm)