Dying for a Living: Anti-Japan War Actors

Succumbing to a kung fu master: it’s all in a day’s work.
SARFT demand has forced “Anti-Japanese War” film and television productions to saturate the market. Programming on the Sino-Japanese War, part of the Pacific theater of World War II, makes for great patriotic entertainment. While studios try new twists, like World War II kung fu, it’s a struggle to keep this material fresh. In a February 4 story, the Qiangjiang Evening News reports on the business of war at Hengdian World Studios, China’s answer to Hollywood. Shi Zhongpeng, a 26-year-old Heng piao [Hengdian World Studios commuter], has suddenly become an Internet star by “dying” eight times in one day while playing the role of Japanese soldier in different productions. Shi Zhongpeng’s fame rose from widespread online reports on the “Hengdian Anti-Japanese Revolutionary Base.” In 2012, Hengdian Studios received 150 production teams, 48 of which made films of TV shows about the Anti-Japanese War. That amounts to about 30% of all productions. Even Hengdian Studios Entertainment Channel couldn’t help poking fun of the trend on Weibo, writing, “Today, there will be another 300 devils executed.” And the statistics are even more convincing. The Hengdian Studios Actors Guild employed 300,000 extras (including special extras) in 2012, and 60% of them had played “devils.” Shi Zhongpeng is a case in point. Shi says he has been in Hengdian for four years, and most often, he has played a Japanese soldier. In 2012, he participated in over 30 Anti-Japanese War productions and played a Japanese soldier over 200 times. On his most productive day, he “died” eight times. As an experienced “devil,” Shi summarizes what he’s learned in one sentence: “The more horrible you look, the better.” The casting teams specifically select people who are less attractive and somewhat vicious-looking to play “devils.” ...
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