Wu won't suffer Edison Chen's fate
WHILE a movie star's sex scandal can hardly excite someone who's never viewed such public personalities as role models, the ensuing discourse is fascinating because it provides a perfect window into the changing social mores in an era when nothing seems constant.
Kris Wu (Wu Yifan) is a 26-year-old entertainer. He sings and acts in movies. But like his dozen peers collectively known as "little fresh meat", a Chinese term for heart-throbs, he is known mostly for his swooning good looks.
On the Twitter-like Sina micro blog, his fan base is 18 million strong.
Much of this multitude has been going through hell for the past two weeks. The torment came in the form of an accusation from a young woman - let's call her G. (Her online handle is a mix of the letter G and two Chinese words.) She hinted that Wu had dumped her.
Public feedback might shed light on the Chinese view of premarital sex. Some argued that a highly polished idol like Wu would never stoop so low and do something like that.
But many others said it was quite normal for a young man of single status to engage in it.
Wu's die-hard fans tend to belong to the former camp and others, some prominent women included, were the forgiving and understanding type.
By this point, the public had assumed that G was Wu's girl for a night, a euphemism for the Chinese coinage that is decidedly more abrasive.
(The Chinese language does not seem to have an equivalent for "groupie".)
Many viewed G as an ambitious social climber who wanted to take advantage of a one-night stand. G's accusation - actually less an accusation than a hint of her relationship with him - came with some evidence, such as snippets of a recording, but it was instantly dismissed by Wu's agency as "pure fabrication".
As if to rebuff the public assumption that she was just a groupie, G started releasing a stream of material, including hundreds of snapshots of her supposed WeChat conversations with Wu.
Both Chinese emigrants to Canada, G and Wu met in Vancouver. According to her, he initiated the affair in January and they had some wonderful times together, cuddling in Canadian hotels for weeks at a time, away from the prying eyes of the paparazzi.
Months later, she discovered that he was cheating on her, and he simply stopped responding to her calls or messages except that, after her first exposure, he "threatened her to shut up".
G said she issued her first semi-public plea (it did not name names) to get him to give her an explanation.
The surprise was that a dozen other women came forward, saying they had similar experiences with him. Some backed them up with photos of Wu sleeping next to them.
According to Zhuo Wei, China's most famous - or infamous - paparazzo who had an exclusive interview with her, G has more and stronger evidence up her sleeve.
Zhuo didn't say what she was after - an apology or some form of compensation from Wu. She said only that she wanted the public to know "what kind of person he really is".
OK, Wu could be a latter-day Don Juan who had a five-month affair but failed to commit. Is he in the habit of unceremoniously ending a relationship - or was it just a fling?
That is assuming everything G said was true.
By the time this article goes to print, Wu or his agency has not made any public response.
Had this happened 20 or 30 years ago, Wu's reputation would have been dragged through the mud.
A public figure, especially one in showbiz, was by default someone on a pedestal.
In the late 1980s, the early days of China's opening up, Chi Zhiqiang, a frequent male lead in romantic comedies of the day, was thrown into jail for essentially the same thing.
He tried to stage a comeback by singing "songs of regret" after his release.
Wu is lucky as we are living in a more tolerant time.
He should also thank Edison Chen for absorbing the first shock. When Chen's sex photos were exposed by a hacker in 2008, it effectively ended his entertainment career even though many belatedly realised he was the victim in that case.
After G released her second wave of evidence, public responses became even more fractured. The number of those with unwavering trust in him dwindled.
Support for her grew.
It helped that she showed lots of tentativeness when Wu was hot on her and also that her family turned out to be quite wealthy, thus making her exposure less likely an act of extortion, at least in public minds.
All this was expected. But I found it ironic that some women said the revelation actually had the opposite effect.
Their attraction for Wu did not take off until they read his WeChat dialogue with G, in which he showed lots of "sweetness".
Well, isn't that the prerequisite for being a Don Juan?
Lord Byron got away with much worse behaviour.
Perhaps I should not call it a growing consensus but it seems more and more people are taking the line that it was OK for Wu to "have dated" this young woman, whether she's a fan and whether he was serious.
Morality aside, both Wu and G could justify what they did.
He could have dated her and found her unsuitable for whatever reason.
She was on a tightrope fearing she would fall off his radar of affection any time.
On a cynical note, he could be using her as a quick fix for libido and she could have been saving every little bit of evidence for the consequences.
If there is a lesson to be learnt, it would be her own conclusion: "I don't believe in fairy tales any more."
The dream machine churns out fairy tales, and that includes the prettily decked-out heart-throbs with their dreamy eyes, but the machine itself is anything but a fairy tale.
ASIA NEWS NETWORK