Entertainment and ideology in Shanghai’s film star culture (1905-1936)
This research examines the formation and development of Shanghai film star culture from 1905 to 1936, and discusses film stars’ social status in the transitional Republican Chinese society. I argue that the film star culture in Shanghai was shaped by two forces: the popular social ideology and Shanghai’s commercial entertainment culture. Also, because stars took part in the promotion of the popular social ideology through their performance in entertainment, they stepped away from marginalised society and their social recognition increased. This research not only examines stars as images, a conventional method in the approach of star studies within the discipline of film studies, but also takes a historical approach to analyse the original social and cultural context’s influence to the creation and promotion of stars images. Therefore, this thesis relies on analysis of primary materials including newspapers, fan journals, popular magazines, film texts, and stars’ autobiographies. The first chapter introduces a brief history of the development of Chinese film star culture from 1905 to 1936. It especially locates the development of film star culture in the context of the global expansion of Hollywood and Shanghai entertainment industry that developed from the late Qing onwards. The remaining chapters discuss how the popular ideologies and entertainment culture created and promoted three aspects of stars’ images: their screen images, personal images, and social images that were shaped in public events. To illustrate the main argument of this thesis, a case study on Hu Die, arguably the most influential star from the mid- 1920s to mid-1930s, is carried out in the final chapter to demonstrate the relationship between her star image and the social and cultural context. I conclude that although stars were always confronting doubts from the public in regard to their motivations to promote social ideologies through entertainment, the embodiment of these ideologies in stars’ images enabled them to be involved in intellectual discourses, which helped to raise their social status. Such changing status of film stars also reflects a more flexible social mobility that appeared in the transitional Republican Chinese society.