Xiao Zhan, aka Sean Xiao, a leading actor and pop idol in China, has officially apologized after a disastrous and widespread fan group meltdown which resulted in fanfiction hub AO3 being blocked in the country.
“I’ve been affected by some disputes related to me recently,” he said in an interview. “If these disputes have affected or troubled people online, I sincerely say sorry.”
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Xiao Zhan is one of two male leads in the hit TV series The Untamed, which draws much of its popularity from the nebulous “more-than-friends” relationship between Xiao and co-star Wang Yibo’s characters.
The controversy started with a particularly saucy homoerotic AU fanfiction which portrayed Xiao as a cross-dressing sex worker. When word got back to Xiao Zhan’s fan army, they were not pleased.
What happened next was an unnecessary overreaction, with scores of Xiao’s fans reporting AO3 to Chinese internet authorities. Eventually those reports yielded a result — fanfiction sites AO3 and Lofter were both put behind mainland China’s “Great Firewall.”
AO3 fans who were not fans of Xiao were, understandably, kind of pissed.
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Content depicting same-sex relationships is still highly sensitive in China. The country’s rigid content policies prevented The Untamed‘s main characters from simply making out, relying instead on innuendo and implied looks. Perhaps unsurprisingly, fanfiction helped fill in the gaps, and AO3 was the number one destination for frustrated Chinese fans — that is until it was blocked.
The response was swift, with A03 fans attacking Xiao Zhan’s online presences and commercial activities for brands such as Estée Lauder, Cartier, and Piaget, resulting in some big names temporarily pulling him as a spokesperson. Suddenly, the actor’s fans had created the single biggest crisis he’s experienced during his years in the entertainment industry.
“I realized that the more attention I received, the greater the sense of responsibility,” Xiao said in the interview, used to promote his new pop single. “What I need to do is do my job well, perform my roles, sing my songs, take my work seriously, and do something positive with my own hands. To guide people who love me, I think this is what I really want to do.”
This article was updated on 05/08/2020 to better contextualize Xiao Zhan’s interview responses
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