Sex, lies and videotape
    Category: 英文阅读  Clicks: 2753  Top: 10  Update Date: 2008/09/14
Summary:She explained that, in 2002, she had asked another girl to have sex with Huang Jianzhong as a payoff so that she herself could be hired in Huang's movie or television projects. Huang claimed he did.

  • She explained that, in 2002, she had asked another girl to have sex with Huang Jianzhong as a payoff so that she herself could be hired in Huang's movie or television projects. Huang claimed he did not remember what happened that day because he was drunk.
    That incident turned out to be a teaser since the tapes were scratchy and the voices were hardly identifiable.
    The counterattack came in 2004 when Huang and two other heavyweights wrote in an industry publication that Zhang Yu, in an unscrupulous attempt to seek roles, had picked a fight with a certain director's wife. Zhang claimed she had been raped by the woman's husband.
    Zhang filed a defamation lawsuit early this year against the three directors. In May, the court announced the directors had made remarks based on generally accepted social and moral standards and they did not constitute libel. Zhang appealed and the original verdict was upheld.
    In mid-November, Zhang launched the biggest salvo by releasing online some of the 20 videotapes she maintained were recordings of her sexually bribing directors or casting directors.
    For the past weeks, she has been talking non-stop to the media about the "darkness of China's entertainment industry" and said her intention was to "use my overt shamelessness to expose their covert shamelessness."
    Casting couch of shame
    The most oft-repeated phrase for this sleazy story is "the hidden rule," which Zhang asserts governs the casting of unknown young actresses. Plainly spoken, they have to offer sex services to those in power, usually the casting director, the director and the producer, in order to get a chance to pry open China's Tinseltown of glitter and glamour.
    Industry insiders who are asked for commentary tend to deny the existence of such a "rule." Some say they are not aware of it.
    Manfred Wong, chairman of Hong Kong Film Awards Association, acknowledges it, but says that only those who cannot grab roles through "normal channels" would trade sex. "This is the most disgusting incident of its kind," he adds.
    Li Xiaolin, an official with China Filmmakers Association, goes a step further: The "hidden rule" applies to all industries and areas where one party needs to exchange something for another. But when it happens in the celebrity-fraught business of entertainment, it is magnified as if the public is watching through a microscope. Online feedback is split into roughly two camps: Those who question the validity of Zhang's evidence or are shocked that "revered artists" would stoop so low, and those who are not in the least surprised by the dirty laundry that they knew was hidden there all the time.
    Motivation of full disclosure
    Zhang Yu, 30, originally from a poor farming community in Hubei Province, has always emphasized her motivation. She made the scandal public to "uncover the hidden rule" and "challenging the powers-that-be who exploit young women," those, who she says, have suffered the same fate but prefer to keep silent. Perhaps to her dismay, she has not received much sympathy from the public.
    Netizens generally jeer at her for her willingness to use her body for a possible career breakthrough and they believe she has personal motives for "breaking the rule."
    For one thing, there is little legal ground she can stake because what she purportedly did with the entertainment bigwigs was between consenting adults. If anything, she may have violated their privacy when she divulged intimate details about their rendezvous without their permission, according to some legal analysts.
    As for her motives, Zhang has never really tried to cover up and act as a pure victim. She admits that she bought into the scheme, at first reluctantly, when she was repeatedly hinted that she had to offer something in exchange for soap opera roles. But when she realized that many of them would renege on the unwritten promise, she started taping their "trading scenes" as a tool of "self-protection." In other words, she was not against the "hidden rule," but against those who do not abide by the rule.
    When those whom she threatened were not frightened into quid pro quo, she started using media and the law as leverages. However, her fame, or rather her notoriety, came at a hefty price: Nobody would hire her as an actress any more. Industry insiders call her "crazy for spotlight" or simply "crazy."
    Crazy or calculated, she has timed her latest move to publicize her soon-to-be published memoir, said one newspaper report.
    Although many people do not feel sorry for her, they support what she has done in slinging mud at the slimy industry.
    Zeng Zihang, a television producer, calls Zhang a "suicide bomber" who hurtles herself into the fortress of male-dominated business.
    "She may not have demolished the fortress, but even the cracks she caused have revealed a seamy side of unmitigated desire and corruption and some truth about the naked barter between power and sex," he said.
    Zhang was no longer a helpless victim when she opted into the game. But she, like the countless young women who dream to be stars, is obviously at a disadvantage in such a rigged game. The benefits they ask for in return are not contractually protected. Her self-implosion has the benefit of reminding innocent people of the pervasive risks in a business as enticing as a siren song.
    "Why should a woman suffer in silence and bear with all the unfair treatment?" Zhang asks in her blog statement. Despite a tainted image that is far from an ideal avatar of feminism, she has used her own over-ambitious path to infamy to shed light on a ubiquitous practice that is also a taboo topic the shady deal between men in power and women at their mercy.
    Media hype
    Zhang asked for a 2,000 yuan (US$247) fee from a website that wanted her to make an appearance. Her request was denied. The website does not, as a rule, pay its guests who appear on its video programmes. Her demand for 100,000 yuan (US$ 12,500) to appear at a commercial event was also rejected as "laughable."
    This anecdote shows that Zhang has had a hard time profiting from her exposure. The only beneficiary from this scandal is a bunch of websites that posted her sex-for-trade video clips.
    Websites like Sina launched Olympian campaigns to promote and cover the story, which, in return, registered hundreds of millions of clicks from online surfers.
    Many analysts say that the unprincipled hyping of this story is the major reason it has been blown out of proportion, and websites, which now steer the print media in this kind of coverage, "have completely lost their sense of social responsibility," says Wang Xiao-feng, a cultural critic at Sanlian Life Weekly.
    "Their commercial success is achieved at the cost of ruining a public platform."
    However, the lack of journalism ethics is not on the minds of the recipients of media frenzy, who tend to view the ready-to-expose Zhang Yu vs I-don't-give-a-damn Big Director as a spectacle of entertainment.
    As a matter of fact, one pundit simply calls Zhang, with only a handful of walk-on roles to her resume, "director of this year's biggest blockbuster."
    "Zhang Yu has already segued into the most watched female lead, albeit only in her homemade pornographic movie," observes Zeng Zihang. "And at the same time she has reduced the Big Director to the status of her male lead."
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