Magazines

Looking back on a sadomasochistic year

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Southern Metropolis Weekly, 28 December 2007

Southern Metropolis Weekly's annual retrospective returned last week in a special issue titled "SM 2007."

This year's wrap-up is more approachable than last year's, whose relentless egao really demanded familiarity with the situations that were being parodied. This year's theme, "Double-Sided 2007," allows the year's major events to be presented alongside the spin that various interested parties came up with.

The new Labor Contract Law—in particular, the media storm surrounding efforts by a number of major companies to restructure their employment contracts before the law took effect on the first of this year—leads the pack of controversial issues, followed by the case of Peng Yu, the Starbucks affair, the black kiln scandal, Wang Shuo's return, the dodgy stock analyst, and dozens of other big news stories. All told, the magazine picks eighty-two "double-sided" stories for 2007, along with ten "two-faced" celebrities, including Putin, Yang Lijuan and, of course, Wang Shuo.

In the issue's foreword, editor Chang Ping describes how the magazine arrived at this year's theme:

Passing a year in SM

by Chang Ping / SMW

1

A few weeks ago, a friend asked me about keywords for 2007. I blurted out "true and false" (真假). By then, the cardboard baozi troublemaker had already been sent to prison, netizens were battling the South China Tiger, the fake white collar income standard had just come out, the market outlook had suddenly clouded over, and there was even a question mark hanging over the photo sent back from Chang'e I....from economic development to cultural choices, from personal integrity to government authority, it seemed that everything had come under suspicion.

In addition, some things that seemed rock-solid, like the statement from the Shaanxi Forestry Bureau, turned out to be unable to stand up to scrutiny, while some things that seemed weak and flimsy, like the nail house, or Xiamen public opinion, turned out to be far stronger than we imagined.

It was in this space between true and false that we spent the last year.

2

Do you remember the year-end special issue of Southern Metropolis Weekly last year? It was called "Reverse News Dictionary: Restructuring 2006," and had a picture of an upside-down elephant on the cover. Many things last year were disappointing to all of us, so we cooked up a world to pursue a different historical possibility. Yes, it was a summation and sublimation of that year's break-out egao (恶搞) , a salute to egao in egao form.

Who would have thought that in 2007, egao would come off the Internet and into real life, out of the imagination and into reality? Formerly uproariously funny, it became something simply dumbfounding; clearly-defined right and wrong turned into something where true and false were hard to distinguish.

So we no longer have to construct a fictional world, nor do we dare. Upended phenomena were all over this year's news. Like the old saw goes, reality is stranger than fiction—better, more brutal, sharper, and more ridiculous.

This special year-end wrap-up is actually very simple, nothing more than a comparison of the facts. But they'll surprise you once you take a look. This year was filled with ups and downs, life was fraught with tension, society faced deep contradictions, and the future awaits the proper choice.

It was in this space between right and wrong that we spent the last year.

3

Finally, we decided to to name this special issue "Double-Sided 2007" because we discovered that many things require you to judge between true and false or black and white, while even more things can reasonably be seen as double-sided or multiple-sided. We wish to lay them out first and then to screen, to understand and then to trim.

Speaking of cuts, the movie Lust, Caution is a prime example. If cinemas had both an original and a bowdlerized version, then there would be no need for so many people to make their way to Hong Kong, nor would there be no evidence available for critics. Nevertheless, we have judged Tang Wei as one of this year's "two-faced" personalities.

Our idea is that while presenting the real and fake, we can also confront the diversity of the world.

It was in this diversity that we spent the last year.

4

When we wrote out the English abbreviation for "Southern Metropolis" and "double-sided" (双面) as "SM," we had the terrible realization that this was also the abbreviation of the English word "sadomasochism." The double-sided mixture of real and fake in 2007 made this a year of SM.

SM is one form of love. In an age of devastation, the poet [Ai Qing] wrote, "Why are my eyes always filled with tears? Because I have such a deep love for this land." And such is our view of 2007: Why is it always such a painful struggle? Because we have such a deep love for this land.

It was in SM that we spent the last year.

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