‘Cute contrast’ — phrase of the week

Society & Culture

A Taiwanese singer and fitness coach has gone viral in China with his home workout livestream. But it's the 'cute contrast' of him and his wife that has helped win millions of fans in China.

Illustration by Derek Zheng

Our phrase of the week is: cute contrast (反差萌 fǎn chā méng).

Context

A little-known Taiwan-born singer, actor, and personal trainer has become an overnight viral sensation in China.

Since the beginning of lockdown in Shanghai, Liú Gēnghóng 刘畊宏 (a.k.a. Will Liu) has broadcast 90-minute workout sessions from his apartment in Shanghai with his wife, Wáng Wǎnfēi 王婉霏 (Vivi Wang), every evening on Douyin, the P.R.C. version of TikTok.

Over the past month, more than 100 million people have watched Liu’s livestreams. A single broadcast was watched by 44.76 million people, the biggest audience on Douyin this year.

Liu’s wife, Vivi, exercises alongside him and has also had a big impact, as one observer in China notes:

His wife, who has a painful expression while trying hard to keep up alongside Liu, has struck a chord with netizens who feel the same pain as her. This “cute contrast” between the two of them has helped attract countless new fans.

妻子在一旁“划水”的痛苦表情也与屏幕前的网友形成共鸣,这一“反差萌”吸粉无数

Translation

Cute contrast is a Chinese internet slang phrase. It’s made up of two parts; the word for cute, méng 萌, and contrast, fǎn chā 反差.

The phrase first appeared in China in 2006. It’s now a common way to describe people in China’s entertainment sector with unexpected, opposing but entertaining characteristics.

It can apply to differences in personality or physical appearance, for instance, describing two sides of an individual, or a couple, such as when one person is much taller than the other.

Vivi Wang’s pained expression as she tries to keep up with her husband as he energetically shouts “Come on!” is the cute contrast that has helped Will Liu gain millions of followers over the weeks of lockdown in Shanghai.

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Andrew Methven