Animal Influencers as Idols of Consumption: Animal Subjectivity and the Cult of Cuteness on China’s New Media Platforms in the 21st Century

Dr Meng Li1

1The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hung Hom, Hong Kong

Whilst human net-celebrities adorn the carnivalesque mediascape of China’s new media platforms, their animal counterparts and their share in China’s attention economy should not be overlooked. This presentation studies animal influencers on major new media platforms in China. It presents textual analysis of vlogs, livestreaming shows, commercials videos, pet expositions and fans meetings involving these animal influencers. By rendering these animal influencers as idols of consumption, the essay focuses on the cult of cuteness and animal subjectivity constructed by breeders and the audience/fans via portrayals of animal experience and interactions between human and animals. It is argued that public imagination and consumption of these animal influencers enable the rise of the previously marginal subject matter of animals in the popular cultural sphere in China. This presentation seeks to explore the following questions: To what extent have the imagination and consumption of animal subjectivity boosted awareness of animal welfare and animal rights in China? How does cyber-petting address the Chinese government’s anxiety over the ageing society in the 21st century? How does this oftentimes affectionate phenomenon relate to the cyber-petters’ pedophobia? The role of urban middle class in constructing animal subjectivity and the cult of cuteness will also be discussed.


Biography

Li Meng is currently Teaching Fellow at The Confucius Institute of Hong Kong (CIHK) in Faculty of Humanities, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. She holds a PhD in Gender and Cultural Studies in The University of Sydney, Australia (2013). Her academic interests include: Chinese intellectual women and men, contemporary Chinese literature, popular culture in China, Chinese women’s history and Hong Kong cinema.

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