Bulletin January 2018 (Vol. 19 No. 2)

management. The images of Korean pop stars, for instance, are very tightly controlled, similar to the old Hollywood studio system, but with a twist: in order to keep unflattering items out of social media, they are under almost constant supervision by agents and other handlers. Dr Tse experienced this first-hand when he was denied access to a small press conference by a Korean pop star because the star’s manager did not recognise him. “The whole system is rigorous and well- monitored because they want to maintain the image for the economic value they get from that. In this way, a celebrity is not an individual at all, just one element in a system generating not only economic values, but social and cultural values,” he said. Magnified on social media The wrench in that system is social media. On the one hand, it connects people immediately to celebrities, empowering fans with the ability to communicate directly with someone they admire and burnishing the image of the celebrity, especially when they let down their guard to show their ‘true’ selves and when they promote issues they value, such as gender equality or even the importance of staying fit. On the other hand, as countless celebrities have found out – such as Ms Ho and former actress Hilary Tsui, wife of pop singer Eason Chan, who has faced cruel and pointless attacks over her mothering skills and intelligence, among other things – the public can also use that access to turn against them. “The power of digital technology makes the celebrity system more complicated. You think you can control everything but there are many more variables and unexpected interactions, and you can’t manage the celebrity 24/7. “We assume digital technology has empowered powerless people to voice out their opinions and that this makes a better world, but it actually just brings offline ideological values and problematic cultural values to the online world where they are magnified. That is the bad side of it,” Dr Tse said. That has not stopped ordinary, non-famous people from adopting the values of self-branding to promote themselves. have become punching bags, which is another identity for us.” The quote is contained in a new book, Celebrity Culture and the Entertainment Industry in Asia , co-authored by Dr Tommy Tse Ho-lun in the Department of Sociology and two colleagues from Hong Kong Baptist University, that has two unique features. First, through Dr Tse’s previous work in the media and his PhD on the fashion world, they obtained unprecedented access to a dozen Asian celebrities and artist managers, including Ms Ho; globally, scholars rarely have the opportunity to interview celebrities directly. Hong Kong pop star Denise Ho has experienced the highs and lows of fame. As a successful singer who is a lesbian and political activist, she has been hailed for her talent and for sharing her personal life and inspiring others. But she has also been vilified online for her sexuality and been banned in China and dropped as a Lancôme spokesperson for her political views. It has all taken a toll. “[Celebrities] are, like, lying on the chopping board. People who dislike us can randomly ‘shoot an arrow’ at us any time or slap our face,” she said. “I feel like today’s celebrities… And second, they bring an Asian perspective to the field. “The field of celebrity studies has usually centred on the West, but with the rise of East Asia and the craze for the Korean wave and the new Chinese cultural wave, we were interested to see how they managed to create their cultural influences within such a short period of time,” Dr Tse said. The rise of the celebrity in Mainland China and Korea has mirrored their economic development and, to a certain extent, Hollywood-style brand The power of digital technology makes the celebrity system more complicated. You think you can control everything but there are many more variables and unexpected interactions, and you can’t manage the celebrity 24/7. Dr Tommy Tse Ho-lun Branding and technology are affecting the nature of celebrity today and have knock-on effects in other parts of society, argues the author of a new book on celebrity in Asia. CELEBRITY CULTURE IN THE MODERN AGE People put their daily lives on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and often Photoshop themselves to look better. “You could say these things have nothing to do with celebrity culture, but the influence is there. We are treating ourselves as celebrities and becoming more conscious about how we present ourselves in virtual spaces,” he said. “The negative aspect of celebrity culture is that it encourages consumerism, materialism and this virtual superficial culture.” Other sectors beyond the entertainment and fashion industries are also embracing celebrity branding, exemplified by US President Donald Trump, who initially built a fan base through self-promotion, reality television and Twitter, and by private tuition centres that prominently feature attractive star teachers in their bus signs. “‘Attention capital’ is becoming as important as economic capital and the connections you have. As long as people pay attention to you, you have the power,” Dr Tse said. █ Denise Ho, a renowned Cantopop singer and film actress, suggested a celebrity’s ideal role in society – as a charismatic opinion leader of various moral and social causes, and an advocate of justice, human rights, and democracy. Hilary Tsui, a former television and film actress, a fashion blogger, the wife of famed Cantopop singer Eason Chan, actively uses social media platforms to promote running and radiate ‘positive energy’ to the public. Celebrity Culture and the Entertainment Industry in Asia by Vivienne Leung, Kimmy Cheng and Tommy Tse is published by Intellect Ltd in the UK and distributed by University of Chicago Press. 39 | 40 The University of Hong Kong Bulletin | January 2018 Books