The VICE Guide to Right Now

Face Masks on TV and Cheesy Memes: How China’s Pop Culture is Reacting to the New Coronavirus Outbreak

TV networks are leading by example to encourage people to wear face masks, while regular citizens are creating posters to attract and inform older relatives.
January 24, 2020, 8:38am
coronavirus china pop culture
(L) Photo from QQ.com. (R) Photo from Weibo.

On the morning of Friday, January 24, there were already 25 confirmed deaths in China caused by the new coronavirus that originated from the city of Wuhan in Hubei Province. This is a sharp increase from 18, the number previously reported just hours prior. In China alone, there are 830 confirmed and 1,072 suspected cases of infection.

Wuhan has been on lockdown since Thursday, January 23. Flights and trains leaving the city were cancelled and internal transport such as buses, subways, and ferries have been suspended. Travel restrictions have also been applied to some cities surrounding Wuhan, including Huanggang, Ezhou, Chibi, and Zhijiang.

Advertisement

Now, the media and regular citizens are all trying to deal with the deadly outbreak in their own ways.

Images of news anchors wearing face masks on TV have gone viral on Chinese social media.

1579852623765-593ecfe1ly1gb5s409gmej21400u0wn8

Photo from Gao Yuenan on Weibo.

News anchor Gao Yuenan, who works at Hubei-based news channel Hubei Jingshi, explained on a Weibo post that doing so was part of the company’s effort to educate Wuhan residents on virus prevention. She encouraged viewers to wear masks when out in public and demonstrated how to properly wear a mask. The network also advised people to avoid crowded places and wash their hands upon arriving home.

1579852869827-Screenshot-2020-01-24-at-104314-AM

Photo from Gao Yuenan on Weibo.

Other news channels, such as Hubei Weishi, also featured news reporters wearing masks.

1579852913242-2D253D535D5DD2DF794C5C77859294D7DA738ED4_size99_w690_h491

Photo from QQ.com.

The move has drawn praises from netizens who believe that this would help to educate the public on safety precautions against the virus.

“I support this. Elderly at home will then know how serious it is now!” said one Weibo user.

“Elderly people only watch television. This is good,” said another comment on Weibo.

Other media companies are also taking precautionary measures to curb the spread of the new coronavirus. The releases of all seven Chinese New Year-themed films, which were scheduled for this weekend, have been cancelled.

Over the span of a few hours on Thursday, January 23, production companies released statements on Weibo announcing that they will be postponing the release of their films out of consideration for public health.

1579853188310-e858205aly1g8oi4synuuj20fk0780y4

Among them are Boonie Bears: The Wild Life, the latest addition to the popular Boonie Bears series, which has had Chinese New Year releases for the past six years.

“We do not want our audience to bear any health risks when watching. To us, nothing is more important than the safety of our family and children!” a statement on the movie’s official Weibo account reads.

Advertisement

The Chinese National Museum announced on Thursday, January 23, that the museum will be closed indefinitely starting Saturday, January 25, to prevent the spread of the virus among visitors.

Members of the public have also taken the initiative to educate one another on virus prevention. Chinese social media has turned into a public health forum as users share their knowledge and experiences.

For example, many netizens face problems convincing their elderly relatives to take safety precautions against the coronavirus. Their solution? Sharing memes in an aesthetic that looks corny to most of us, but appears to be popular among older generations. These images contain catchy lines about virus prevention.

“2020 New Year Greetings,” one of them reads, “No gathering for meals this year, we can make up for it next year. If you attend a gathering this year, the virus will come for you.”

1579853229914-bfc243a3gy1gb7e79rkicj215l0spq69

Another Chinese New Year greeting reads: “One less gathering, stay happy and safe; give your blessings online, it’s fashionable and safe!”

1579853261057-bfc243a3gy1gb7e7afaq3j217k0rcq8c

Photo from Weibo.

“‘Mask’ in ‘Face Mask’ has 13 (Chinese character) strokes. So does ‘Prosperity’… wearing a face mask is wearing prosperity… don’t waste a face mask, wear one.”

1579853281145-bfc243a3gy1gb7e7apk23j20ne0sgk4j

Photo from Weibo.

Despite the cheesy aesthetic, people have been sharing these images unironically in an attempt to convince stubborn parents and grandparents to take the contagion very seriously. “Thank you! I’ve sent these to my chat group,” commented one Weibo user.