Friday, August 20, 2010

Zhang Ziyi--guilty of ??

In a comment to the post immediately below this one dleedlee, who knows much more than I about the lives of the rich and infamous in Hong Kong, wrote that it was "part of Zhang Ziyi's (successful) image rehabilitation tour." The rehabilitation necessary to Zhang Ziyi's reputation is due to the scandal around funds pledged, raised and paid for the sake of the victims of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake and even the incident in which she was the target of destructive behavior by hooded criminals where a group of hooded men splashed black ink  on an advertisement bearing Zhang's image after creating a scene at the Park Hyatt Beijing hotel.  This is a pretty good summary of it with the added bonus of casually smearing the names of Zhou Xun, Vicki Zhao and Na Ying. The reports were all based on anonymous and unofficial sources even though many of the articles used the very weighty term "fraud" in their accounts.

Viewed from the United States the controversy around the money for the earthquake victims looked like a non-issue. We expect celebrities to claim to raise money for relief of a headline grabbing disaster with no responsibility to actually come up with any money--it is part of the Hollywood hype machine which made me think Zhang Ziyi's difficulties were an internet scandal--something that didn't resonate beyond message boards and gossip sites. Based solely on reading some of the Chinese gossip press it still looks as if she was guilty of no more than poor judgment.

However there might have been some consequences for Zhang Ziyi although it has been confined to the rarefied area of high fashion endorsements it is impossible to tell. The reasons why Miss XXX is no longer the face of Brand YYY are as knowable as a correct interpretation of an answer from the Oracle at Delphi or of the riddle of Turandot but having the icon of your brand break down in tears during hostile questioning at a press conference. Either celebrities in China are held to a much higher ethical standard than in the United States or the gossip press is even more vicious than it is here. 

As reported by xiuhuanet  through dleedlee Shu Qi will now be looking out from ads, billboards and subway cards in China, Singapore and Malaysia.

Note: Fixed bad China Daily link at "break down" above.


  1. The one thing you didn't mention in this post, though you may have mentioned it in the past, is the idea that Zhang Ziyi is not really well liked in China. I don't know the reasons why, but it used to be widely mentioned as she tried to begin a post-CTHD career.

  2. "Either celebrities in China are held to a much higher ethical standard than in the United States or the gossip press is even more vicious than it is here."

    I think it depends on the celebrity in China (Mainland and Hong Kong).

    For instance, many celebrities do seem to try to create a certain type of image for themselves (e.g., family man Jackie Chan, clean cut Gillian Chung) -- and woe betide them when it's discovered that their real(-life) behavior is not as they previously pretended.

    In the case of Zhang Ziyi, there appears to be a disjuncture between how she's perceived in the West vs East. What Westerners may see as independent and spirited, Easterners see as willful and spoilt. The sense I get is that her looks don't help her either -- she has the kind of face that often has the kind of expression of it that is read as "sour" (a combo of unhappy and downright pissed off) by Asian people...

  3. Honestly, I couldn't make heads or tails of what really happened vis-a-vis the Sichuan charity foundation. One humorous fallout from the Donation-gate affair, celebrities have now taken to publicly providing receipts of their charity donations as proof of their philanthropy.

    I wonder if Zhang Ziyi's lack of popularity at home doesn't have something to do with the fact that her fame and celebrity-dom was established overseas by Western audiences, first in Berlin with The Road Home, and then overseas with CTHD. As I recall, CTHD wasn't that well received at home.

    Perhaps if ZZY had a small string of local film or TV work under her belt, it would be a different story. As in, look what we produced, and now even the Westerners appreciate her, too. That's a narrative that sells. In a sense, she robbed them of the opportunity to have a bit of national pride.

    Having a Western boyfriend like Vivi Nevo, couldn't help either.

  4. I'll take the unpopularity of Zhang Ziyi in China as a given although she continues to work with top directors there. She got big roles in big movies--but very few of them and one assumes at this stage in her career it isn't her decision not to work but she simply isn't getting offers--at least offers she likes. Since "Crouching Tiger" there has been with Zhang Yimou although probably sixth most important of the top six characters; "House of Flying Daggers", Zhang Yimou again; "2046", Wong Kar-Wai and this year's "Legend of Yip Man" also directed by Wong; "Forever Enthralled" with Chen Kaige. Not much of an oeuvre for a young actress, one big movie every two years although there are other roles in her filmography but not enough for a career.

    She certainly hasn't chosen Western projects very well: "Memoirs of a Geisha", "Rush Hour 2" while the Korean mega-actioner "Musa" was shot before CTHD.

    Even watching "The Road Home" on DVD makes it clear why she won the Silver Bear in Berlin. Her 18 year old face in perfectly framed close-ups must have been quite something on a sixty foot screen.

    I agree that she has a "sour" face although I don't think that lessens her attractiveness at all.