The Dark Side of Streaming: An Interview with People’s Republic of Desire’s Hao Wu

What’s the one thing in the world you wish you had? Something you crave? Is it money? Is it fame? Is it both? What are you willing to do for it? Once you obtain it, are  you sure it’ll make you happy or will it make your life a living hell?

Often times we look at the rich as people to desire. Why not? They have the cars you want, the family, the money and the fame. However we often forget what it takes to achieve success. For several young Chinese citizens, they’ve turned to technology to give them a chance at fortune and fame.

Young Chinese gathering online to watch talk shows.
Credit: Courtesy of Junbing Sun

Disturbing and provocative, People’s Republic of Desire explores the strange world of China’s live-streaming “showrooms,” where the most popular stars can earn hundreds of thousands of dollars a month from adoring fans who “tip” them with “digital gifts” paid for with actual cash. Comparable to America’s YouTube (but more massive), these participants are considered  a “diaosis” (Chinese slang for a “loser”) in real life are now desirable under the glare of their cameras. Like their Hollywood counterparts, the idols’ agents negotiate promotional opportunities, manipulate their client’s public personas, and take a 20% cut of their earnings.

Mostly filmed in their bedrooms for several hours a day (almost everyday), they soon discover that with fame and fortune comes with the price of disconnecting from society; including giving up a social life, your family, friends and battling depression.

Popular online singer Shen Man.
Courtesy Jingyang Cheng

The Koalition spoke with director and producer, Wu about both the positive and negative impact of YY, how society views streamers, the dark side of chasing your dreams via a streaming platform and more.

People’s Republic of Desire will release on PBS on February 25th (10:00-11:30pm EST) and will stream on until March 10th.