Conversation with a buddy who stans Z with me. Z is an artist with a lot of fan problems.
Me: Wang Kai did x, y, z as soon as he was famous to tell fans what he wants from them without having fans lose face.
Buddy: How can you even stand fanning Z after stanning someone as impressive as Wang Kai?
The more I fan other artists and hear about how fans can be setbacks to the artists, the more I’m impressed by everything that Wang Kai has done to guide his fans on the path he wants, so here’s a list of actions Wang Kai executed masterfully in his first year of fame to tell his fans exactly what he wants out of them. If you follow gossip sites, all this was done while Wang Kai was dealing with a huge smear campaign in November.
Obviously, because so many of these actions have become embedded in fan culture and the scalping business, it’s both difficult and costly for any artist to try and refuse them. I don’t really hold it against artists for not being able to do what Wang Kai has done (also I would have to unfan a bunch of people if did, and I need internal consistency), but I have mad respect for Wang Kai for sticking with his own rules and actually reinforcing them in the nicest way possible.
- While filming Stay With Me in late 2015, Wang Kai fans were divided on whether to do fan support (where fans cater meals and bring gifts to the cast and crew to try to get goodwill for their idols) after both of his co-star’s fanclubs did them. Wang Kai let his fans come on set, but then footed the whole bill and gave everyone who came additional gifts to take back home. Fans immediately got the message and stopped doing fan support.
- In late 2015, Wang Kai was asked about his newly-found fame in an interview, and he used it to discuss the issue of fans following him to airports. He said that just because everybody is doing it doesn’t mean it’s right. Buying travel information from scalpers is illegal, and crowing creates safety risks for both fans and regular travelers.
To drive the point home, he would sometimes buy multiple flights, sometimes on different days and at airports, until scalpers stopped selling his data. He also wore the same overcoat at the airport for a whole winter so the airport-paparazzi-for-hire would stop photographing him. He also won’t chat or smile at any fan at airports, causing him to lose a number of “fans.”
Now, fans joke that if they ever saw him on a plane, they need to jump out with a parachute ASAP to prove their innocence.
- Because of his popularity as Prince Jing in Nirvana in Fire, fans began to call them Princess Jing (wife of Prince Jing). Wang Kai shut down that title the minute he was asked about it in an interview (but without offending anyone), and instead suggested that actors and the audience are equals, so he’ll address his audience as “my audience-friends” and his fans address him as “my actor-friend.” FYI the name doesn’t sound so awkward and made-up in Chinese.
- Around the same time, a popular hashtag was #What’s the point of life if I can’t sleep with Wang Kai#. He also shut that down the first time he was asked about it and told fans “As long as you study well, work well, study hard, and work hard, one day, you’ll sleep with someone who you love.” I love that he refused to give false hopes to fans and is clear on what the relationship he wants from fans – that between an actor and his audience.
“After When a Snail Falls in Love finds its female lead, no matter if she’s the female lead you had hoped for, don’t go around disparaging her. Before a TV series is finished filming, anything you think that might not fit could become a perfect fit! Don’t forget how much pressure Wang Kai faced when the cast for Nirvana in Fire was announced! Don’t do unto others what you don’t want to happen to you! Don’t let our past become the present of others. ❤️❤️ – Weibo liked by Wang Kai
- Back then it was still common to have forums for fan clubs. In early 2016, Wang Kai’s fanclub (at that time ran by fans) tried to require people to register with their official ID numbers. Wang Kai recorded a video for all fans, but the fanclub restricted viewership to people who had registered. After some raised concerns about data security and probably in addition to the problems mentioned previously, Wang Kai’s team announced they were taking over fanclub but in reality just disbanded it.
- In Wang Kai’s first international appearance during Milan Fashion Week, a couple of fans interviewed by media such as the New York Times told them his name was Nick Wang. He then liked a Weibo by a fan (yours truly, thank you very much) noting that instead of the English name Nick listed on his Baidu, he seems to prefer the name Wang Kai when dealing with foreign companies and press, so fans stopped using Nick.
- When asked what gifts he was going to give fans to celebrate him reaching a certain mark of followers on Weibo, he attended a charity event and said: “charity is the best gift.” Ever since then, his fans only spend money on charity, and usually not even in his name but in the name of his characters, such as a bridge to honor the bridge blown up by Fan Chuan of Railroad Tigers or pigs for a school cafeteria in the name of the pig farmer Song Yunhui of Like a Flowing River. His fans have built roads or bridges in rural China in honor of almost all his non-antagonist characters so far (no roads in the name of murderers). When Wang Kai was accused of exaggerating how he would move 15 tons of books a night into the warehouse where he once worked, fans got bookstores to come out and prove it can be done and then worked with those bookstores to donate 15 tons of books to school libraries.