You come across all sorts of peddlers in the city: men and women selling maps and fengshui calendars, mute people silently offering amulets; and disfigured beggars, who often work in pairs, plying their trade in pity.
So far, they are OK by me.
But I recently met someone who has simply gone too far.
At the peak of the morning rush hour, when passengers were packed like sardines in the subway car, I suddenly heard the woman's high-pitched squeal: "Have a look at today's paper! The famous movie star Jackie Chan died this morning, killed by his mistress! Don't miss it!"
Almost everyone instantly turned to look at the woman, in plain clothing, as she approached with a pile of tabloid newspapers. She showed everyone the paper without forgetting to add, "The radio this morning had already reported that!"
Although I was suspicious about the news, I bought one anyway, convinced by her confident tone. However, the moment she handed me the paper, I knew I had been cheated: The poor design said it all.
This so-called newspaper, which cost me 2 yuan, was very poorly printed, and the cover story about Chan's "death" was obviously made up, probably downloaded from the Internet, without the reporter's byline.
A passenger next to me told me he had come across the news about Chan's purported death some days ago, and that were numerous hawkers of dodgy newspapers doing business on the subway. As if to add a punctuation mark to his words, right after the woman left, a middle-aged man holding the same newspaper weaved through the crowd, repeating her spiel.
Although most passengers did not buy the newspaper, I discovered the news was out; the rumor was making the rounds.
A female passenger borrowed my paper to "have a look". Others in pairs began gossiping at once: "Jackie Chan is dead?" "Really? Who you think is his 'mistress'?"
Let me remind that it is all innuendo. I am not a fan of the big movie star, but at that time, I feel sympathy for him. Being a celebrity cannot be an easy. I even imagined how Chan would react if he happened to take the subway. Would he be angered or simply shrug it off and walk away?
Most people will say that the lives of celebrities have nothing to do with them. But as a matter of fact, our society is obsessed, like never before, with celebrity culture, the gossip and rumors about relationships and scandals (real or imagined). Somehow the personal lives of these icons are now very proper conversation-starters for two not-so-familiar people. Celebrities are just like commodity goods in this sense.
On one hand, they are indeed hot consumer products. Everyone knows them, and to be honest, they need exposure, too. On the other, our consumption of celebrity lives is crossing the line of propriety.
Society is such that now everyone likes to peep into the private affairs of other people. So stars, because they are public figures, become the biggest victims.
See how many Internet users left messages on the Web "begging for" the sex videotapes of Shoushou, the car model. Log on to tianya, a famous domestic forum, and see how many Internet users regularly post their newly discovered secrets of the stars or news of their downfalls. Count how many follow the posts, then you will know the "none-of-my-business" attitude exists in name only.
In a sense, everyone is complicit in Chan's "death". It is our curiosity, or our need to consume the stars, that "killed" him. The peddlers, and those who printed the tabloid newspapers, are taking advantage of our curiosity to line their pockets.
The weird thing is none of them are ashamed.