Chinese artist Rose Machine Gun (玫瑰机关枪) — well-known online for her anime-style fan art — was found dead in late November, in a suicide that has put the spotlight of public discourse on her boyfriend, a member of the seduction or “pick-up artist” community.
The 20-year-old’s tragic death drew condolences from those in the Chinese fan art and entertainment fields. Ex-EXO singer Huang Zitao broke the silence on Weibo, posting the text “Thank you…and farewell” alongside old art that Rose Machine Gun had created for him.
Photo: Huang Zitao’s Weibo
Her passing catalyzed a wider discussion on Chinese social media platforms about the dangers of the pick-up artist (PUA) movement.
“There was a timid sense of innocence in her work. She was still a child with a desire to explore the world while escaping the dark side…She didn’t leave a note to blame others. It was more of deep despair, so stay away from these bad guys,” wrote one Zhihu user, a longtime follower of Rose Machine Gun’s work.
Originating in the US as a set of techniques for men seeking sexual success with women, the PUA community has drawn criticism over themes of sexism and misogyny. Its practitioners often gaslight their targets, a form of psychological control intended to make their (mostly female) victims question their own thinking.
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Over the past decade or two, “pick up” has become a big — and often dark — business in China. Thousands of companies and websites cater to the pickup community, selling dating advice to susceptible men.
Now, victims of harassment and abuse in China are beginning to speak up more. Among them are idol rapper Yamy, who went public with an account of abuse by her boss, and ex-news intern Xianzi who took well-known TV star Zhu Jun to court this week.
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Wang Rui, a Beijing-based lawyer, responded to the Zhihu question, saying the death is currently lacking a legal basis for assuming responsibility, since the boyfriend’s action “does not have a strict logical causality.”
“The implementer of PUA may not even have guilt, but the loved one is hurt,” he said.
Cover image: Rose Machine Gun
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