It’s hard for stars to find their footing in the entertainment industry when people are always on the lookout for something new. For stars with short-lived fame like Internet celebrities, their livelihood relies almost entirely on the net and their fans. Take 28-year-old actor Xiao Zhan for instance, who rose to mega-stardom after last year’s hugely popular Chinese television series The Untamed (available on Netflix), but has suddenly ceased work as of late February.
His temporary disappearance from the public eye is due to an event now described as ‘The 227 Incident’. On February 27, a type of homoerotic fan fiction commonly referred to as BL (boys love) was discovered online that pertained to Xiao Zhan. The fan fiction in question featured a character – coincidentally named Xiao Zhan – who suffered from ‘gender identity disorder’ (a controversial term that was removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 2013).
While there were some Xiao Zhan fans who had little issue with the story, others weren’t so pleased about what they read, and reported the novel to government authorities, who also don’t take too kindly to certain kinds of content. This led to the shutdown of the entire website where the BL story was published.
Image: @陈情令官微 via Weibo
Enraged by the loss of a safe space where a variety of subculture groups had been creating content for years, millions of the site’s users began an online campaign to tarnish Xiao Zhan’s name, from giving low ratings to everything Xiao appears in to boycotting every product and brand that Xiao endorses.
Just like the website, Xiao himself went missing from the public eye while brands quickly removed his pictures from their ad campaigns for fear of further backlash. Xiao Zhan’s management released an announcement
on Weibo, apologising only for ‘taking up social and public resources’, which further polarised the discussion on how idols should behave in these situations.
For the moment, his most devoted fans are still loading their shopping trolleys with products endorsed by Xiao – they figure the most constructive way to save their idol is to keep the cash flowing.