Leisure, Hobbies, and the State in Socialist China
3: Chinese Animation and Socialist Epistolary Fandom
Friday, March 25, 2022
3:30pm – 5:00pm EST
Virtual Paper Presenter(s)
Daisy Yan Du
Hong Kong University of Science & Technology, Hong Kong
Socialist animation has always been regarded as an audio-visual medium for the optical and acoustic pleasure of the audience in the theater. But what happened after the audience left the theater? How did they understand the films? What was on their mind? This paper examines socialist animation off-screen by drawing attention to the socialist audience’s hobbies of writing letters to animators and magazine editors. In these letters, which rarely received replies, viewers shared their own understanding and interpretation of the animated films. They also raised questions, which sometimes went astray and twisted the intended message of the films, despite the ideological and/or moral indoctrination of the propagandist’s lecture prior to the screening. These letters, often hand-written during the audience’s leisure time, created a unique socialist epistolary fandom where the audience took pleasure in running after their stars. The animated socialist epistolary fandom was not restricted to socialist China but spanned the Communist block during the socialist years and even lingered in the post-socialist digital age, when writing letters by hand had become an obsolete way of communication and chasing stars. Examining the socialist epistolary fandom will help us to better understand how the audience perceived and understood the animated images on screen, how they expressed their ideas about the images, and how ordinary people’s leisure time was structured, politicized, and depoliticized across space and time.