Centre for Contemporary East Asian Cultural Studies Seminar
The Emerging “National Husband” in Contemporary Chinese Entertainment Media
Speaker: Dr Jamie J. Zhao (Xi’an-Jiaotong Liverpool University)
This talk inspects the discursive formation of a neologism called “national husband” (guomin laogong 国民老公) in contemporary China. “National husband,” a grassroots term created by Chinese netizens in the early 2010s, often denotes a person who perfectly fits into Chinese women’s romantic and marital fantasies. I present case studies of female “husband” figures and discourses on queer romantic fantasies and ideals surrounding women that have been high-profiled in the contemporary Chinese TV industry, music industry, and celebrity culture. Analyses are devoted to the Taiwanese star Bea Hayden Kuo (郭碧婷) in the film series Tiny Times (小时代系列; Guo Jingming dir., 2013–2015); the actress Zhang Tian’ai (张天爱) featured in the online TV show about time travel and gender reversal/gender binding, Go! Princess Go! (太子妃升职记; LeTV, China, 2015–2016); and FFC-Acrush, the “fake” boy band composed of five Chinese tomboyish girls. I examine the mechanisms underlying the Chinese entertainment media industry’s titillation and manufacturing of homoerotic fantasies of “national husbands” as part of what I have termed as a burgeoning “Chinese queer sensationalism,” as well as the queer desires, ambivalence, gendered performances, and strategic responses from the female celebrities and the audience in light of the persistent, state-promoted hetero-patriarchal expectations of familial-marital roles that young, single women are taught to fulfill.
About the author
Dr. Jamie J. Zhao is a Global Queer Media scholar and Lecturer of Communication Studies in the School of Film and TV Arts at XJTLU. She received her first PhD in Gender Studies in 2016 from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. She also holds a MA in Media Studies from the University of Wisconsin. In fall 2018, she will complete her second doctoral degree in Film and TV Studies from the University of Warwick. Her research explores gender and sexuality in East Asian entertainment and fandom. Her academic writings can be found in a number of academic anthologies and journals, such as Feminist Media Studies, TWC, MCLC, Celebrity Studies, and Journal of Fandom Studies. She is also the coeditor of and contributor to the first English-language anthology on Chinese queer fandom studies, Boys' Love, Cosplay, and Androgynous Idols: Queer Fan Cultures in Mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan (HKUP, 2017). Currently, in addition to guest-editing two special journal issues (for Continuum and Feminist Media Studies) on Chinese-speaking queer media cultures, she is working on two monograph manuscripts, tentatively titled Queer Occidentalism in Chinese Cyber Fandom and A Queer Sensationalism of Post-2010 Chinese Formatted TV. Her next anthology project Chinese Queer TV in a Digital Age will be launched in 2019.