By Sharanya Gopinathan
Quartz recently unveiled that FFC-Acrush (more on the FFC later) is a new Chinese ‘boy band’ that’s actually made up of five androgynous women.
According to Quartz, when the androgynous Li Yuchun won the talent competition “Super Girl” in 2005, entertainment agents across China understood how marketable androgyny could be, and began to think about putting together a band of androgynous women. After a nationwide search and months of training, Lu Keran, An Junxi, Peng Xichen, Min Junqian and Lin Fan became the new band, FFC-Acrush. They said that they all used to dress like boys before they took to the stage as Acrush, although for some reason I’m also assuming that in the future, they won’t have much of a choice if they wanted to dress any other way.
Acrush is run by a Chinese entertainment giant called Huati. There are lots of massive entertainment companies like these in South Korea, Japan and China, and they search out, train and launch pop mega stars that breed a level of obsession that’s beyond astounding. You also hear stories of how these stars-in-training are trained in seclusion for months, even years, and made to sign contracts saying that they won’t date anyone. These pop-star phenomenons are supposed to walk fine line between being approachable and mysterious: for example, Acrush’s manager instructs them to answer to every message they get on Weibo (Chinese Twitter), but they’re forbidden from talking about their sexuality in public.
Acrush and other bands are being marketed to fill the void of popular bands in the Chinese pop scene. That space is mostly dominated by Korean pop (K-pop) and Japanese pop (J-pop) bands.
In the K-pop industry, members of bands perform, sing and dance at hugely popular concerts, but also take part in “variety shows”, kind of like reality shows but not, where they play games, take part in activities and other things that are supposed to let their fans get to know their (carefully constructed) personalities better. I’m not sure if they do the same in the Chinese pop industry, but these kinds of things lead to a world where fans allow themselves to be completed obsessed, with both their on-stage personas and what fans imagine to be their real-life personalities.
As for the FFC in FFC-Acrush, Huati plans to launch a couple more bands, all under the brand ‘Fantasy Football Confederation’. All members of this brand will, Quartz says, have to learn football and make it part of their performance, as it gives the band the appearance of being sunny and wholesome, plus the government likes football. It’s this kind of thing that I find so weird about the entire Asian pop experience, especially this current wave of it. It just feels like such a strange, bizarre, formulaic manufacturing of obsession, and sometimes I feel like the gimmicks are a joke, but they’re not. And they work.
Anyway, I’m a little excited to see what Acrush shapes up to be, but more so in how fans, who are already famous for being deeply and particularly obsessive, will react to them.