Imagine if Twitter had been around back in 2005, when Brad Pitt dumped Jennifer Aniston for Angelina Jolie (God, even typing that makes me feel creaky and old). If Brad had apologized to Jen on Twitter, the Internet as a whole probably would’ve self-destructed, and instead of tweeting on the Internet we’d be sending 140-character Sharpie texts via messenger bluebirds.
Something like this basically just happened on China’s version of Twitter, Sina Weibo. The Chinese celebrity Wen Zhang, a film and TV actor who was recently accused of cheating on his wife, actress/producer Ma Yili, just broke the record for comments and retweets with an apology to his wife. Watch out, Ellen DeGeneres Oscar selfie!
The AP reports that Zhang posted his apology to Yili on Sina Weibo early Monday night, posting “and the children could have had a warm and nice life, but everything was destroyed by me.” Since then, Zhang’s apology has been reposted more than 1.2 million times and received more than 1.9 million angry comments, most of them from educated Chinese women under the age of 24.
While paling in comparison to DeGeneres’s Oscar selfie (which became the most retweeted tweet after it was shared more than 3.4 million times last month), Zhang’s apology has broken the record for the most reposted tweet on Sina Weibo, an honor previously held by a Chinese pop singer’s announcement that she was divorcing her husband. It’s also trending above the missing Malaysian plane on Sina Weibo, which has been the central focus of the Chinese media for the past month.
There are a few reasons why Zhang’s apology has captivated Chinese Sina Weibo users to the extent that it has. Part of it has to do with Zhang’s reputation as a clean-cut, family-friendly celebrity (sort of like the reputation Pitt had before he announced he was divorcing Aniston for Jolie).
But according to journalism professor Zhan Jiang, it’s also because entertainment news in China is not as heavily censored as political news on social media networks. “From the authorities’ point of view it isn’t good if the public cares too much about politics, but entertainment is safe,” Jiang says. So seemingly trivial entertainment gossip like news of Zhang’s extramarital affair also double as an outlet for Chinese social media users to freely voice their uncensored opinions.
H/T AP Wire | Illustration by Jason Reed