Sunday, March 15, 2009

Gillian Chung, Angelina Jolie, Rock Hudson and the uses of Thai sorcery

Hong Kong residents who visit Thailand and stray from typical tourist paths into brothels and bars are set upon and sometimes followed home by evil spirits. Or so it would seem from the movies—"The Eternal Evil of Asia" is one example of the genre. At her news conference the other day it would have been fitting if Ah Gil had summoned one of these demons to help her deal with the intrusive, vulgar and imbecilic questions from the press. The reporter who asked her whether she had to sell a condo unit in order to support her family could have gotten the same treatment as Bobby Au-Yeung Jan-Wa, ventilated with a few flourescent tubes while the one who wanted to know is she still loved Edison might look good as a a penis-head which is only one of the fates suffered by Elvis Tsui Kam-Kong when their characters crossed a powerful wizard in Thailand.
Bobby Au-Yeung Jan-Wa Elvis Tsui Kam-Kong

In the United States we have become used to the paparazzi and the celebrities they stalk and who owe at least part of their fame to the photographers they try (or seem to try) to avoid but Lindsay, Paris and other objects of the diva-starved masses have it quite easy compared to what Hong Kong celebrities must deal with, given the conservative audiences in the Special Administrative Region and their demands that popular entertainers have lives paralleling their screen images. The Hollywood studio PR systems that lasted until the 1950s are a good parallel. Rock Hudson was a manly man, Doris Day was the wholesome girl next door, Debbie Reynolds was a sweet as Tammy. No one expects that kind of organized hypocracy now (there are a different set of lies to retail to the credulous) but is seems from this western point of view that it is alive and well in Hong Kong.

Gillian Chung is returning from her year wandering in the wilderness, hoping to reignite her movie career and, to the extent possible, put the tawdry Edison Chan episode behind her. One wishes her all the success in the world, particularly given the insanity of the reaction of the Hong Kong press. A good summary of the gory details of her reception from AsianFanatics is here.
The great lengths to which celebrities go to insure their privacy was shown when Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt decided that the birth their daughter Shiloh should take place in the southern African nation of Namibia. They are wealthy and not afraid to spend their wealth on privacy; have excellent international contacts and credibility due to Jolie's work with the United Nations refugee efforts (UNHCR) and complete cooperation from the Namibian government, who said foreign journalists wishing to cover the birth must have written permission from Pitt and Jolie to enter the country and obtain a work permit.

Few of the targets of celebrity-stalking journos have the money, logistic capabilty and connections that allow them to dictate immigration rules in a country of their choosing, so they wind up answering questions that shouldn't be asked. It seems as if Gillian Chung got through this ordeal relatively well, due in significant part to the unstinting support of the Tough Jeansmith clothing line. It must have been the first time in Hong Kong that an announcement for a new line of jeans by a local company drew over 100 press participants.
Here is a picture of her during the conference
And another the next morning, looking much happier at a Jeansmith store in Mongkok, surrounded by her fans
Gillian Chung is not a great actress but she had been a hard working and very professional performer, seemed to get as much from her talent as the script and director would allow and was willing to promote her projects tirelessly. She clearly had no sense of how to deal with the firestorm that the publication of her pictures with Edison Chen caused but may have done the right thing in simply disappearing for a year. It is interesting that her comeback is as a spokesperson for a clothing line. While Jeansmith got more ink and airtime in one day than they usually get in a year (or ten years) their executives still had to be as sure as they could that having Ah Gil as the face of their brand would work in their favor. I hope they are right and that she is able to begin working and once again make her fans happy.

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