China and Inner Asia

Organized Panel Session

1 - The Rise of Papi Jiang: Self-, Para-, Meta- and We-Medias

Thursday, March 22
7:30 PM - 9:30 PM
Location: Roosevelt Room 4, Exhibit Level

The rise of Papi Jiang (b. 1987) as China’s “No. 1 Internet Celebrity” in 2016 marks the explosion of “content entrepreneurship” in the age of self-media, when individuals generate stories online for virality and economic gain. Papi’s hallmarks—viper tongue, computer accelerated audio, domestic setting, occasional topics, humorous discontent, and cat adoration—have gained her seventeen million followers and millions of investment in several months. This paper first explains how, through the parody of popular culture, social trends, and established customs, Papi’s weekly videos provide comic relief to cyber audiences ranging from diaosi to shengnv. Then I analyze how her slightly hysterical and outrageously playful twist of media conventions exposes the performativity of news, TV drama, movies, and the celebrity culture itself, blurring the boundaries between the elite and the popular, and the grand narratives and the gossip. These meta- and para-media elements contribute to the candor and humor that characterize her cyber appeal. The last part of the paper examines Papitube, a form of we-media through which Papi curates her own online memes and perpetuates her own style. Ironically this self-proliferation underlines the ephemerality of cyber memory and also betrays the limits of parody. When parody becomes an end—a product, a brand, and a label—rather than a tool to expose and go beyond clichés, its proliferation celebrates nothing but its own tyrannical grip in an age of disbelief and performed rebellion. 

Jie Zhang

Trinity University, Texas

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1 - The Rise of Papi Jiang: Self-, Para-, Meta- and We-Medias



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