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China’s viral pics and gifs feature foreigners

2017-07-17 20:17     娱乐     来自:环球时报GlobalTimes

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Stickers are a must-have in daily online communication in China. Photo: Li Hao/GT


Not a lot of people in the world know the answer to this question - What does it feel like to know that your face is being used in daily conversations millions of times every day? 

However, American wrestler and color commentator D'Angelo Dinero, American video blogger Chuk Morka and a number of others know exactly how it feels. These foreigners may be more familiar to the Chinese than many Hollywood stars. 

The reason is that their faces are sticker memes.

Stickers have been one of the trendiest subcultures on the Chinese Internet over recent years. A step up from emoji and emoticon, stickers are uncomplicated digital illustrations and gifs, mostly sent through chatting apps and social media platforms like WeChat, Sina Weibo and QQ. 

The most popular stickers are often of famous faces known by various titles like "Big Three" stickers, the "Six Tycoons" stickers, and the "anchors" or the "kings" stickers. Among them, Dinero is usually referred to as "that grinning wrestler" and Morka dubbed "that black guy from the question mark face" by ordinary Chinese Net users.

It seems there is something mysterious and fascinating about these faces - some celebrities, some ordinary people, some Chinese and some foreigners. Their facial and body expressions turn out to be very suitable for daily conversation and for recreation too, as numerous pictures and gifs of different forms are emerging every day. 

For the numerous picture and gif users on social media who might be wondering about the people behind the stickers, Metropolitan has talked to both Dinero and Morka, the real "kings of stickers," to find out what happened when they made "the face," what it is like to see one's own face being used in everyday conversation and what their secret is behind becoming mimetic in the world of stickers.

D'Angelo Dinero - 'The Pope' of stickers 

Dinero, American WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) wrestler and color commentator on Impact Wrestling (an American professional wrestling promotion), also known as Elijah Burke, with the nickname "The Pope,"  became one of Chinese sticker users' favorites, all because of a look he made after knocking down a rival in one of his fights. 

The grinning face of American wrestler and color commentator D'Angelo Dinero has been made into numerous pictures and gifs that people use in online communication. Photos: the Internet


One moment he was breathing heavily, looking furious and serious, and then he broke out into a grin, all proud and confident. 

The "look" has been made into small pictures and gifs that are circulating Chinese social media. Sometimes the pictures and gifs are pieced together with drawings, cartoon characters or short statements, mostly to express one's confidence. 

It is no coincidence that the specific look appealed to many people and became viral, as Dinero recalled the moment. "I finished my match, looked directly into the camera while being upset and then relaxed, and knowing that I had just demolished my opponent, my frown slowly changed into a grin and the rest is history." 

Dinero said that in real life he often receives compliments about his smile for being confident, attractive and sometimes "lethal."

Dinero told the Global Times that it felt great to be a meme face. "I had no idea about just how massively popular The Pope's face and smile had become in China until about a year or so ago when someone from China tweeted a sticker with my face on the body of Godzilla," he said. "It was at that time I realized just how big of a deal it was." 

Among the most popular stickers based on Dinero's face, he likes the one with the statement, "I am so darn cute," with his face in the frame of a panda illustration. 

"Pandas are one of the cutest animals in the world and well, I'm not too far behind, so putting us together to form that sticker is a perfect match," he said jestingly. 

"But in all seriousness, I love them all and certainly look forward to what Chinese will creatively come up with next." 

Chuk Morka - The making of the 'question mark face'  

Morka didn't realize that his "question mark face" has been viral in China until recently. "I created this video here in the US and it became big in China - It's a great feeling," he told the Global Times. "Honestly, I was astonished by this." 

Morka's confused face meme is better known by Chinese Net users as the "question mark face." In the most popular of his confused faces, he had his eyes squinting at the thought of an intricate statement, with question marks surrounding his head.

The face came from his video series on Vine, a short-form video hosting site. 

American video blogger Chuk Morka's confused look, have become widely used in China's thriving sticker subculture. Photo: Li Hao/GT


"The parents said something that was really outrageous, and I responded in a confused, surprised manner, which had the question marks," he explained. The videos were intended for the viewers to laugh and relate to scenarios when parents say things that confuse their children, including the classic parent lectures starting with the phrase "when I was your age." 

At the specific moment that was captured and has gone viral, the father, played by Morka, said to his son, "Son, how old are you?" 

The son, also played by Morka, said, "21." And the father continues, "When I was your age, I was 22." 

Morka admitted that his inspiration came from NBA athlete Nick Yang, who made a perplexed facial expression in a video program in 2014 when his mother said that he was "a clown" in his younger years. The screen capture of Yang's confused face has gone viral online since then. 

Another person from the viral confused face meme series in China includes Kiesha Johnson, a young woman from Alabama. While in the area of confused "question mark faces," Nick Yang rules in the West, in China, Morka is just as popular as Yang. 

Active on Instagram, Vine and Twitter, Morka calls himself a social media entertainer. He is hoping to expand to movies, as well as television shows and commercials. 

He also gave some advice to the most earnest Chinese sticker users as in how to do the best "question mark face" of their own. 

"Picture an outrageous thing and focus on that," he said. Then one can look up with his head slightly turning to the right, squint his eyes, and making the lower part of his face go up, pouting. 

More meme faces coming

Among the foreign faces used in Chinese sticker memes, there are also Pilipino comic book writer Gerry Alanguilan, Korean actor Choi Seong-gu and Japanese voice actress Hanazawa Kana, usually used for their unusual laughs. 

Stickers are becoming more and more influential in Chinese people's lives. On the country's online shopping platforms like taobao.com, one can also find T-shirts, mugs and other products with the "Chuk Morka question mark face," the various forms of the "smile of The Pope," and many more.  

Twenty-six-year-old freelance writer and editor Xiao Hailun has been addicted to using stickers for years. He said that he cannot even conduct a conversation without them anymore. 

"I consider them a great tool, especially if there are situations when something awkward is said. They are useful when you don't know what to say, or if you are angry or astonished about something," he said. 

Xiao especially loves to use stickers based on foreigners like Dinero and Morka and thinks that there are reasons why their faces travel across borders and become viral in China. 

"The Asian society is conservative, especially from the outside, but people might actually be wild and mad on the inside. So they express their inner uproar by using faces of foreigners who are more expressive." 

"Creativity is the most important thing in the community of sticker users. I look forward to seeing other foreigners become popular in the world of stickers," he said.