Our photo theme this week is “The ’90s in China.” Not China in the 1990s, but “The Nineties” as a global pop cultural form as it has been consumed and reworked inside China, both then and now.
At record shops in China in the late ’90s, cassettes by local bands were 9.8 kuai ($1.50) a tape, and international tapes went for 13 kuai ($2). Back then Mandy Moore, this somewhat provocative yet also sweet and innocent young lady, caught my attention and compelled me to invest this vast sum in her album. I’ve forgotten how many nights I spent studying that tape, riding my bike listening to her thin, high voice singing about emotions that I couldn’t tell were real or fake. I didn’t even know what “dating” was. At that time I felt that if I could change into Mandy Moore, life might be much easier. Afterwards she and Ryan Adams got married and then divorced, and I totally forgot about her.
Until recently, when I saw her on TV and suddenly realized — Mandy Moore is almost 34 now. But “I Wanna Be With You” is still one of my favorite love songs.
Even now I don’t dare to admit to my friends that I used to be one of the core members of a message board dedicated to The Moffatts. Above the door to my room in my childhood home hung all kinds of posters and magazine clippings about them, large and small.
When I was a teenager I hadn’t seen any foreigners like these four Canadian boys (three of whom are triplets), my heart’s definition of “dream boyfriend.” Every month I’d wait at the stand to buy a magazine called 轻音乐 (“Light Music”) and sing every one of their songs until I knew them fluently (even though they only put out two albums), and I would absolutely not allow anyone to compare them to The Hansons in any way. I tried to save my money to go see one of their farewell performances in Southeast Asia, but I failed.
Later on, they grew up to look like normal Canadian men, unsurprisingly. One of them came out of the closet, and the rest of them disappeared, but every now and then they try to get back together to make some reunion money.
But the posters on the wall above my door in my hometown haven’t moved.
After I went to the movie theater to see Titanic, my classmates all started circulating a dirty little secret: we all wanted to marry Leonardo DiCaprio.
I spent 5 kuai ($0.75) to buy a pirated VCD of Romeo + Juliet, and me and two of my middle school classmates got together at a parent’s house one night and watched it with sinister intentions. To this day I can’t forget those vague, fuzzy nude scenes, and the visual shock we all got from the damp swimming pool kiss scene. It felt like something had opened up, but in the end I can’t say exactly what.
In 2017, this is still one of my favorite romantic films, even if that delicate leading lady has turned into the globe-trotting lunatic on Homeland.
Many Chinese women in their early 30s now can’t admit to themselves that Leo has turned into a middle-aged man concerned with protecting the environment. In our hearts, he’s still our first foreign crush, a young boy in chainmail, and for many Chinese women he’s probably the only foreigner they’ll ever like.