Monday, November 23, 2009

I'm a Soy Sauce Man!

Today, after our Cantonese lesson, our tutor SJ started telling us about a Chinese celebrity: the soy sauce man. It's this guy:

Before we talk about the soy sauce, or why the subtitles say 关我X事,with an "X" rather than a Chinese character, we need to go back to the Edison Chen Photo Sex Scandal. My bet is that you haven't heard of it because you don't live in China, and I know you don't live in China because China blocks access to blogspot. But that's neither here nor there.

Eidson Chen is (was) a Hong Kong-based Chinese film actor, rapper, Cantopop singer, model, record producer, fashion designer, and a pop icon. (Thanks, wikipedia!) Also, incidentally, in 2008, 465 pictures of him having sex with lots of famous Chinese actresses happened to surface after his computer went in to be repaired. In Chinese, this incident is called 艳照门, or "Sexy Photo Gate", where the gate, naturally, is a reference to Watergate, because in Chinese they also name their scandals by putting "gate" at the end (seriously). But that, again, is neither here nor there.

Anyway, so this caused a big firestorm in China, as you can imagine. The worst part was that the women who appeared in the photos were almost universally condemned in public opinion, even though my gut feeling is that Edison Chen is probably at fault for taking over 400 pictures of himself having sex. (How terribly were the women treated? From an article on the scandal: "Gillian Chung [met] with fans prior to her 65-second press conference...a female voice was yelling out..."black abalone". This is one of the nicknames that netizens are using for her, in reference to her vulva and its color." But that's neither here nor there.) Many news organizations interviewed everyday citizens to get their take on the scandal and its aftermath.

Enter the soy sauce man.

A Guangzhou TV station went out onto the streets to get footage of people talking about Sexy Photo Gate, and most people reacted with all sorts of moral outrage and condemnation.

But then one man, when asked what he thought of the Edison Chen sex scandal, said “关我屌事,我出来买酱油的.”, which means, "I don't give a fuck, I'm just out buying soy sauce."

I should clarify that this isn't some weird Chinese expression or anything. This is just a guy who doesn't give a fuck and, also, needs to buy some soy sauce.

China now loves this man. For instance, here is a picture I found online of the soy sauce man's head inserted into Liberty Leading the People:

This makes sense in Chinese, because soy sauce is 酱油 (jiangyou) and liberty is 自由 (ziyou). The second character sounds the same. Whatever.

So now soy sauce man has become an internet sensation among the ol' netizens, and now when people don't care about something, they'll say that they're just "buying soy sauce."

Also, why is the subtitle written as 关我X事? Because, translated literally, 关我屌事 means "concerning me fuck stuff": 屌 means "fuck" (it's one of the "Magnificent 5" -- the 5 dirtiest words in Cantonese!), and so I guess the TV station didn't want to write it. But if you search online for screencaps, you'll see that some stations also wrote the subtitle as 关我鸟事, which means "concerning me bird stuff", because "bird" is a common polite substitution for "fuck". When SJ told us the story, she actually said 鸟 rather than 屌, which is not surprising, because I don't think that SJ knows any curse words of any kind. But that's neither here nor there.

Final digression, a headline from China's Global Times, from a few weeks ago: "Injection to replace bullet to the head." Evidently criminals facing the death penalty in Beijing will no longer be killed by a gunshot to the head. Score one for human rights!