“Grass Mud Horse Style”: Voice of the Youth, Social and Media Revolution in the Age of New Digital Globalization
Ying Xiao (University of Florida)
Since early 2009, an inflammatory posting of “Ten Mythical Creatures” (shida shenshou) originating from Baidu Baike – one of the most popular Chinese portal sites equivalent to Wikipedia – has attracted myriad clicks and has been widely circulated and massively reproduced among millions of Chinese netizens. Of particular interest is Grass Mud Horse (cao ni ma), the central character of these ten virtually created imageries. What makes it intriguing and even contentious is its sardonic undertone and its complex innuendoes referencing blasphemously to much more than just an animal species. Then what does this peculiar term really mean and furthermore signify in the Chinese context? My talk addresses this provocative figure and question of Grass Mud Horse and investigates its linguistic camouflage, visual aesthetic, and social-cultural signification in China’s new digital globalization era. In particular, how does it comment on and poke fun at diverse social issues, ranging from internet censorship, the right of free expression, intellectual property right, to the order of “harmonious society” propagated by the Chinese state when facing a severe challenge of social unrest, political credibility, and ideological crisis in the twenty-first century? Grass Mud Horse provides us a rich angle to explore contemporary China’s socio-historical change, its appeals and discontents, as well as a number of other discourses, for instance, youth subculture, civic society, cyber representation, and media transformation in the new era.
Ying Xiao is an assistant professor of Sinophone studies and film and media studies at the University of Florida. Her teaching and research interests primarily concentrate on Chinese-language films (mainland, Taiwan and Hong Kong), Chinese in Hollywood, popular music, youth culture, sound studies, theories of globalization and transnationalism, as well as gender representations. She is currently working on a book manuscript on cinema, popular music, and multilingualism in contemporary China.
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