A local music video, featuring a girl group, FFx, dancing and singing their song “My Sugar Baby” rather awkwardly, went viral recently.
It was revealed later that the video cost only HK$900 to produce.
The performance of the four girls was so weird that it instantly captured the attention of the city and garnered more than two million hits online.
Some regard it as evidence of the decline of the Hong Kong music industry.
Actually, it is just another example of a common phenomenon in the mass entertainment industry.
You may recall Fox TV’s American Idol segment in 2004 in which William Hung, a Hong Kong-born American, sang an off-key rendition of Ricky Martin’s “She Bangs” with extraordinary dance steps.
The judges couldn’t help but stop him in the middle of his performance.
Yet Hung’s response was impressive.
He said he had given his best and had no regrets at all.
This helped him win the hearts of the audience long enough for him to appear on some more shows and even in the movies.
In mass entertainment, what matters most is the ratings, followed by the quality of the show.
Anything that can attract the “eyeballs” of the audience is a good show.
If it sustains its momentum and becomes a hot topic, that’s even better.
However, only outstanding performances can draw the attention of viewers. There has to be some reason for people to watch something again.
The best ones are rewarded with praise, while the worst are destined to be mocked.
If you can’t produce the best, then give the worst to the audience.
That’s the application of “Machiavellianism” in mass entertainment.
One need not worry too much whether another FFx or William Hung will emerge. Surely more will appear in the near future.
However, only the best, genuinely good shows can survive and even create a trend.
Cult performances will only grab windfall attention.
There hasn’t yet been another William Hung or another HK$900 music video gone viral.
Machiavellian manipulations can only be short-lived, as shown in last week’s English Premier League match between Chelsea and Arsenal football clubs.
Diego Costa from Chelsea successfully ignited the ire of Gabriel Paulista.
It was Paulista who got sent off the field with a red card.
Chelsea’s victory over Arsenal can be considered as a successful result of Costa’s application of Machiavellianism.
However, the English Football Association held a review meeting, which lifted Paulista’s suspension but sentenced Costa to detention for the coming three matches.
The ruling stirred up controversy in Britain, with some people supporting and others disapproving of Costa’s manipulations.
Those against Costa criticized his “dark arts”, since he often behaves in an uncivilized manner toward opposing players behind the back of the referees.
What happened against Arsenal was nothing new.
Since the time he played for Atlético Madrid, Costa has always behaved the same, harassing his opponents.
ESPN commentator Iain Macintosh dubbed Costa “the nasty, driven, brilliant striker”.
Of course, there are people who cheer on Costa.
Chelsea’s football manager, José Mourinho, regarded him as the best player of last week’s match against Arsenal.
Tony Evans, a veteran sports commentator, wrote that Costa should be “celebrated, not demonized”, for his brand of football and that it was the Arsenal player’s fault for not being able to keep himself under control.
Costa is a pantomime villain but also well versed in the dark arts, wrote Paul Wilson, who reckoned the three-match ban on him wasn’t a good idea, given that football is part of the entertainment industry.
Wilson’s logic can equally be applied to rationalize the celebration of FFx’s and Hung’s awkward performances.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Sept. 26.
Translation by Darlie Yiu
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