In the Chinese entertainment industry, there is a cohort of men, very often middle-aged, who have some strong opinions about the massive popularity of “fresh young meat” (小鲜肉 xiǎoxiānròu), a slang term for soft-skinned, slightly effeminate, young male actors. One of the most vocal critics of fresh young meat is the award-winning director Feng Xiaogang 冯小刚, who publicly berated the phenomenon, calling such actors too feminine. “I personally don’t get why they have such a huge appeal to the market,” Feng said.
The anti-fresh-young-meat group now seems to have found its spokesman. In a press conference for his new show, The Patriot 爱国者, Wang Hailin 汪海林, screenwriter of a few hit TV dramas, including The Eloquent Ji Xiaolan 铁齿铜牙纪晓岚, spent over three minutes addressing (in Chinese) his issues with fresh young meat.
The problem of ‘fresh young meat’ is associated with aesthetics. When I say I want some ‘fresh young meat’ to play roles in my work, I mean I want some male prostitutes. If we take a look at countries with advanced aesthetics, such as powerful countries in the West, they often demonstrate a strong sense of masculinity. For instance, in the case of America, its masculine image can be found in certain representative actors such as Tom Hanks, Dustin Hoffman, and Robert Downey Jr.
Wang also explained how the phenomenon of “fresh young meat” poses a threat to the younger generation in China:
Male actors represent national ideology. If the most popular male actors in our country are those feminine-looking ones, it will threaten our national aesthetics. They can exist, but they should not be rewarded. We should not encourage young people to take this direction.
Wang also complained about China’s screenwriters, demanding that they put more masculine characters in their work. “For a long time, the TV scene in China has been occupied by some male losers… This needs to change,” he said.