Controversy over ‘fresh meat’ in propaganda film

Society & Culture

A summary of the top news in Chinese society and culture for July 26, 2017. Part of the daily SupChina newsletter, a convenient package of China’s business, political, and cultural news delivered to your inbox for free. Subscribe here.

The Founding of an Army (建军大业 jiànjūn dàyè), the final installment of a trilogy of historical films after The Founding of a Republic (2009) and The Founding of the Party (2011), is expected to hit theaters on July 27 in time to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army on August 1. With a cast featuring an array of young actors or “little fresh meats” (小鲜肉 xiǎo xiān ròu), the film hopes to seduce China’s cinema-going population into watching propaganda. However, it appears that not everyone is impressed.

On July 25, Ye Daying 叶大鹰, grandson of Ye Ting 叶挺, a well-known Chinese Communist military leader, took to Weibo to express (in Chinese) his dissatisfaction with the young actor who played his beloved grandfather in the war epic:

As Ye’s descendant, I want to question Huang Jianxin 黄建新 and Liu Weiqiang 刘伟强. Do you really know nothing about history or do you deliberately want to make money from big historical events? You picked a feminine male actor who can’t even stand straight to play Ye Ting. Whom are you trying to humiliate?

Though Ye did not include any actor’s name in his post, he was referring to Ou Hao 欧豪, the 24-year-old pop idol who plays Ye Ting. In response, the promotional team behind the film fought back on Weibo. “You are welcome to watch the film when it screens. We are looking forward to the review,” reads the post.

It’s not just Ye Daying — criticism of the casting choices has been widespread online. “Look at this young cast of pop idols. I can instantly tell the revolution is doomed to fail,” one internet user wrote (in Chinese) earlier this year. Other commenters simply noted the practical aspect of having such a cast: “Without these pop idols, who will pay to watch patriotic films?” one commenter wrote (in Chinese).