China Insider: Everything you need to know about the Wen Zhang scandalPosted: 04/3/2014 7:31 pm
The most viral post made in Weibo history; a battle of privacy rights; the death of traditional media by new media — these terms are currently buzzing the Chinese internet, but you may still find yourself at odds with the hottest celebrity scandal currently being discussed by your co-workers or students.
Here then is everything you need to know about the Wen Zhang love triangle scandal. In simple terms, it’s sex, betrayal and typecasting, but to fully understand why China has gone collectively bonkers over this story, we’ll present this information in (mostly) chronological fashion:
Meet Wen Zhang. He’s a B-list actor. He’s made a name for himself acting in roles in which he serves as the mild-mannered milquetoast. He’s basically an emasculated James Marsden who keeps losing his women to Ryan Gosling in the Notebook, Superman himself, and the Dark Phoenix.
This is Ma Yili. She’s also a relatively successful actor. The two worked together on the 2007 Beijing TV drama about Gen-X’ers in angst, “Struggle” (奋斗, watch online here). Wen and Ma got married in 2008, and the two become a celebrity couple that are ranked somewhere on the same tier as Courtney Cox and David Arquette.
Here’s Yao Di. Yao worked with Wen on a television show called “The Era of Naked Marriage” (裸婚时代) in 2011 (watch online here). The show makes waves by exploring the taboo practice of getting married without having first purchasing a house and car for your new family, thereby being “naked”. Yao portrays a strong-willed woman who gets knocked up by her boyfriend Wen, a man who isn’t manly enough to buy a house before engaging in coitus.
Wen Zhang confronts his being typecast in luckless roles as the mild-mannered milquetoast (or in Chinese parlance, 小男人, which literally means “little man”) by stating in a 2011 promotional interview that he takes “no offense” to the term and in fact hopes to become China’s “#1 milquetoast” in celluloid form.
Rumors have long circulated about Wen Zhang’s infidelity with actress Yao Di. Celebrity photographers have known about the rumor for half a year, but have yet to provide any substantial “evidence” for a judging public. Two photographers from Southern Entertainment Weekly, Chen Chaohua and Xie Xiao, tracked down Wen and Yao in Shenzhen, Guangdong. Yao was shooting a movie on location here, and was also about to celebrate her birthday.
The photographs show two people that appear to be in love, but can not be positively identified due to the pains they have gone to to disguise their identities. Southern Entertainment Weekly teases their readers by hyping the release of the photos with the hashtag, #SeeYouMonday. However, the secret is known to industry insiders, and the company is put under enormous pressure. For that reason, Southern Entertainment Weekly does not wait until Monday for its print edition, but instead publishes the photos online using its social media networks.
China loses its collective conservatism and is outraged in undignified ways. The most common sentiment concerns Ma, the wife who is currently taking care of Wen’s two children, one of whom was just born a month ago. Furthermore, the typecasting of Wen as China’s Steve Buschemi if he had more romantic roles leads to universal disbelief that such an inferior man could cheat on his wife, an act only alpha-males are deigned worthy of performing.
Because apologies are much more effective on the internet, Wen makes an apology to his wife on Weibo from Guangdong by posting to the #SeeYouMonday hashtag. It becomes the biggest thing on Weibo since always, forever and ever, totes real. Sent in the early morning of March 31, it currently has 824K likes, 1.2 million forwards, and 1.8 million comments. Conspiracy theorists believe Wen did not write the apology letter himself on the basis that both Simplified and Traditional Chinese script appear in the apology, and that only a joint cross-strait alliance is able to express how sorry he is for cheating on his family. Furthermore, other analysis point out that Ma is eight years older than Wen, and that such an age discrepancy was doomed to failure.
Ma proves that celebrities are as attached to their phones as we commoners by posting a reply to Wen’s apology not three minutes later his initial post. Also an extremely popular Weibo post itself, Ma’s response includes the ambiguous yet poetic line, “Love is easy, marriage is not; cherish what you’ve got right now.” This quote becomes a meme in itself because TV and movies are not as good at conveying poetry as Weibo is.
Wen is not finished with breaking out of the mold. Wen sends another Weibo, this time directly at the two photographers who caught him cheating. Wen takes the unbecoming yet manly stance of accepting all responsibility for his actions, and urges the two not to implicate others. He states that he himself is fair game, and that he will accommodate the two if they want to keep up the fight. This is the internet equivalent of taking off your shirt and revealing your wife-beater, again a non-typical Wen Zhang move. (It doesn’t count when it’s a promo shot.)
Throughout this ordeal, Yao Di has not made any statements. She may be still into snail mail for all we know. Scented pages, you know.