China's meat di­vide

Chi­nese girls gawk on young, ef­fem­i­natelook­ing male ac­tors and singers, but now older en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try ex­perts have put their foot down

Global Times – Metro Beijing - - FRONT PAGE - By Ka­trin Büchen­bacher

In re­cent years, a spe­cial type of celebrity has cap­tured young Chi­nese girl’s hearts. They have pale, soft skin and a scan­dal-free life. They are young, stylish and skinny, al­most an­drog­y­nous-look­ing boys. The

fans call them xiao xi­an­rou – “lit­tle fresh meat.” The boy­group TFboys, the model/ ac­tor/rap­per Cai Xukun or “Chi­nese Justin Bieber” dubbed Lu Han may only weigh around 55kg each but are heavy­weights in the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try.

On Quora, a ques­tion and an­swer site based in the US, a user named Sam X de­fines lit­tle fresh meat as good look­ing stars with “bad per­for­mance or singing skills” but an “un­rea­son­able amount of crazy fans.” The other side of the spec­trum is what fe­male fans call “beef jerky” – mid­dle-aged, more ma­ture and classy look­ing, per­haps more mus­cu­lar, ac­tors and singers.

An aes­thet­ics prob­lem

Now, the beef jerky of the Chi­nese en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try wish to put a hold on the grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity of their com­peti­tors. Fa­mous screen­writer Wang Hailin ex­plained at the press con­fer­ence of his new TV drama The Pa­triot why he thinks that lit­tle fresh meats are lead­ing Chi­nese mas­culin­ity in the wrong di­rec­tion.

“In the orig­i­nal sense of the ex­pres­sion, it was used in a deroga­tory way to de­scribe pros­ti­tutes of Hong Kong women,” he said, adding that coun­tries with an ad­vanced un­der­stand­ing of aes­thet­ics, such as Eu­ro­pean coun­tries and the US, have a “strong sense of mas­culin­ity.”

He said that male ac­tors rep­re­sented the na­tional will and hence were very im­por­tant.

Ef­fem­i­nate-look­ing “lit­tle fresh meat” can ex­ist, he added, “but we should not en­cour­age the youth to strive for that look.”

Met­ro­pol­i­tan spoke with Bei­jing’s res­i­dents to find out if they fa­vor lit­tle meats or beef jerky and what mas­culin­ity has to do with a coun­try’s na­tional power.

South African na­tional Kevin Richard­son, whose arms look like they’re get­ting reg­u­lar work­outs, said, “Some of the (Chi­nese) men just come across as more fem­i­nine than any­thing else,” adding that ever since he came to China, he re­al­ized that some of the lo­cal men’s skin is in bet­ter shape than the women’s.

“I do think that if (China) wants to come across as pow­er­ful they should have more mas­cu­line men out there in­stead of just show­cas­ing boys with nice skin and makeup,” he said.

Fash­ion free of gen­der norms

Li Ji­aqi, who’s wear­ing cir­cu­lar lenses, don­ning pink hair and a pair of dun­ga­rees that en­hance his slim fig­ure, sees it as a com­pli­ment when peo­ple call him lit­tle fresh meat. He thinks that his pas­sion for a uni­sex, Ja­panese-in­spired cloth­ing has noth­ing to do with China’s pres­tige.

“If you judge a coun­try’s na­tional power through the way the peo­ple dress, I think that’s way too su­per­fi­cial,” he said, adding that China and the US have dif­fer­ent tra­di­tions in the way they have given mean­ing to mas­culin­ity his­tor­i­cally.

“To de­fine a coun­try, we must rather see if there is a pos­i­tive en­ergy in their so­ci­ety,” he said.

Amer­i­can Malia Mullen said that she per­son­ally likes a grown-up and classy look more than a youth­ful look in men, but she also thinks that some cul­tures over-em­pha­size man­li­ness in their choice of ac­tors. “I don’t think that be­ing less mas­cu­line has any ef­fect on a coun­try’s abil­ity to be in con­trol or to do good be­cause that would be say­ing that women are not ca­pa­ble of be­ing in con­trol or do­ing good,” she said. “I think women are badass. We can do any­thing that men can. If a guy wants to be more fem­i­nine, he can be a badass too!”

A young Chi­nese wo­man nammed Amanda, who only wanted to give us her English name, is a fan of “lit­tle fresh meat” be­cause of their youth­ful, pale and “ten­der” ap­pear­ance.

“Some guys are mas­cu­line and some are cute,” she said, “It’s not con­tra­dic­tory. It’s fine.”

Dutch na­tional Pe­tra does not fancy “lit­tle fresh meat.” “They look so young,” she said. “They should do more train­ing and eat some spaghetti, mashed pota­toes and chicken,” she ad­vises.

Guinean Lloyd thinks that the ex­pres­sion “lit­tle fresh meat” sounds sen­sual when de­pict­ing young men. He per­son­ally prefers more ma­ture look­ing guys as he thinks of him­self as “not fem­i­nine at all.” At the same time, he un­der­stands that Chi­nese women would like the “fem­i­nine” type as they are of smaller shape and size as well.

Chi­nese Liu has an­other ex­pla­na­tion for the pop­u­lar­ity of lit­tle fresh meat.

“We Eastern­ers may pre­fer the stars that need your at­ten­tion and care, while Western­ers may pre­fer mus­cle men, who give you more of a sense of se­cu­rity,” he said, adding that Chi­nese stars can be both manly or adopt a more uni­sex style. Fash­ion and body shapes may not be de­fined by fixed gen­der norms. “It is just fine to have this diver­sity.”

Photo: VCG

Chi­nese idol Cai Xukun is con­sid­ered to be a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of "lit­tle fresh meat".

Photos: VCG

“Lit­tle fresh meat” – young, hand­some, skinny male stars – find them­selves crit­i­cized by the “beef jerky” of the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try. Up­per left: Chi­nese pop­u­lar boy band TFBoys; Bot­tom left: Chi­nese hit K-pop idol Lu Han.

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