Imagine a future where getting famous only depends on followers and celebrities thrive on online streaming video and receiving gifts from their patrons with a modicum of talent. You really don’t have to do that all, there’s already online communities where that happens. However, I’ve never seen it to the degree of the phenomenon in China where it is truly over the top.


In director Hao Wu’s documentary People’s Republic of Desire, we are introduce to a world on online video hosts. They are almost always online, receiving gifts of money from their followers. Their followers also have ranks by the level of gifts they make. The hosts are also ranked in tournaments with where you can vote through the online platform with your hard earned cash.

Obviously, the winner is always the platform itself. In this case, the documentary follows Shen Ma, a singer and Big Li, a comedian, trying to make it big in Think of YouTube where you’re always streaming and imagine a perpetual connection with Patreon where your followers are always sending you money.

The way the film illustrates the interaction, using a stylized display with icons of diverse colors to show followers and high rank followers is very effective at communicating the level of constant interaction that happens between host and followers. In an almost sport-like fashion, the movie then shows the hosts as they rise in popularity, suffer through scandals, join online agencies that coach them to improve their presence and finally compete in a sort of ultimate match.

Recommended with reservations. There’s something inherently depressing about devoting yourself to collecting favours and gifts from strangers from just appearing online. In the end this documentary film might not have intended to feel like a warning, but while you easily feel sorry for the poor followers who use up their savings at least they are not the pseudo celebrities that waste their lives.

That will do for now.