February 10th, 2008

Sexy Photos Gate

Heck with all this political news in this country. The real world story right now is in Hong Kong, baby!

It started 13 days ago, when photos of several popular Hong Kong film and music stars engaged in sexual acts appeared at an adult forum website. Within a day, more photos appeared, all featuring hunky young Canadian-Chinese boy Edison Chen (known to gwailos as the male star of The Grudge 2); eventually, it turned out the photos (amounting finally to a whopping 1,300) had been copied illegally from Edison's laptop computer. As of last count, seven different women have been identified in the photos, including possibly Hong Kong's two hottest young actresses (Gillian Chung and Cecelia Cheung). The entire case has been dubbed "Sexy Photos Gate" by the Chinese press.

I find this case incredibly fascinating for any number of reasons. Aside from the purely prurient interest (and yeah, these photos are really explicit), they've revealed some interesting differences - and similarities - between Hong Kong's culture and ours. On the one hand, pornographic photos of young actors tend to be laughed off pretty quickly here; but in Hong Kong - where actresses never do nude scenes and Gillian Chung's squeaky clean girl-next-door image had been polished until it was blinding - this is career-threatening material. Edison Chen has already been yanked from one film, and ads that Gillian Chung appeared in for Hong Kong Disneyland have already been pulled. Chen fled to Boston, where his current girlfriend is; unfortunately for our boy, some of the photos from his laptop feature that same girlfriend in an undressed state at the ripe old age of fourteen. Child pornography laws are pretty much universal, and it doesn't help that the girl also happens to be the niece of the head of one of the two biggest entertainment management companies in Hong Kong.

Meanwhile, here in the enlightened (note sarcasm, please) U. S. of A., I've actually read a poster on one Asian cinema board noting that the only person he feels sorry for in this case is actress Cecelia Cheung, "because she is a mother now". Cecelia (as is often the case in Hong Kong) basically retired from the film industry when she married and had a child last year, so her career and livelihood are not on the line; however, apparently because she's pursuing a traditional stay-at-home feminine role, she's the only party worth pity here. Nice to know that sexism is alive and well on either side of the Pacific (and you also know now one of the reasons that I stopped frequenting that particular board some time ago).

Then there's the political angle: Hong Kong police have made dozens of arrests in the case, often running in persons who had simply downloaded these photos from the internet (which isn't hard to do - they're everywhere). Yesterday a mob of 300 marched on police headquarters in the former colony, claiming the police were being unfair in their arrests. There's been some speculation that this case is even testing Hong Kong's "one country, two systems" approach.

This case even has its slightly eerie "deja vu" angle: A few years ago Gillian Chung starred in a darn-near-brilliant black comedy called Beyond Our Ken, playing a woman who (....wait for it...) seeks revenge on her ex-boyfriend after he posts nude photos of her on the internet. The plot centered on Gillian's character teaming up with the cad's current girlfriend, but concluded with a twist (sorry, no spoiler alert here because I know none of you will ever see this film) in which Gillian revealed that she had actually posted the photos to the internet herself.

Gillian Chung is scheduled to hold her first press conference about this unfortunate event very shortly. Unfortunately I doubt it'll be quite so entertaining or enlightening as the finale of Beyond Our Ken. She's a fine young actress who is (was?) poised to become Hong Kong's next major female action star, and we can only hope that the rest of the world will finally demonstrate some common sense and let her career - and Cecelia's (should she return to acting) - move forward. As for Edison...well, he had a breakthrough performance last year in Dog Bite Dog, and I'd like to see him keep working, but it's hard to be quite so sympathetic to a guy who seems too busy photographing his women to realize how old they are.