Week 10 – Janice, Karen, Vanessa and Yannie

Top News of the week: Press conference of Charlene Choi and Ronald Cheng

The rumor of the marriage between Charlene Choi and Ronald Cheng has become a hot issue in different media. From parting to marriage, and then divorce, it only happened within a week of time. This rumor originated from the news of Apple Daily under the Next Media. Firstly it exposed their marital relationship just by gossiping. And then this “rumor” dramatically turned to be the “fact” because of the evidence of their marriage license. On the same day, two persons involved called a press conference in order to clarify the rumors and declare their relationship.

Our group has watched the video clip of the press conference and we have come up with some viewpoints from different angles. Two of us focus on the reporting manners of the media and show sympathy for two celebrities while one sees their press conference as a show. There is also a neutral comment on their case.

From the first viewpoint, the roles of Charlene and Ronald are the victims under the oppression from the media. With this perception, their performances in the press conference are being well accepted. “Watching two people being shot by many cameras with harsh flashes, they were as if the targets that are being shot by hunters with guns.” one of us said. Although both of them perform well in the showbiz industry, they cannot escape from the reports of the media and public's critics. During the conference, Charlene sadly commented this rumor made her understand that being an artist could never have any privacy. This really sounds sad but somehow it is quite true in the reality. Marriage is the manifesto of love between two people. They absolutely have the rights to keep their marriage as a secret or announce it to the public. However, media always have different ways to gather information or collect evidence, in which will violate the privacy of celebrities. Even if characters involved in this case are not celebrities, divorcement is undoubtedly a bad news to any couples. For Charlene and Ronald, they have to not only face the problems in their relationship, but also deal with the the media and public. It is difficult to imagine how stressful and cruel they are suffering. This side shows sympathy on Charlene and Ronald and one even shows admiration for the calm performance of Charlene.

From another viewpoint, the rumor is viewed as a shame and the celebrities are the swindlers. Every step they did or attitudes they adopted when responding were deliberate and well planned. At the beginning of the hearsay over the past few years, they chose to deny their relationship and lied about it. “From announcing their separation and then divorce, all Hongkongers are being deceived by what they said in these few years.” If Apple Daily did not disclose their marriage license, the public as well as their fans will never realize their relationship. Although the celebrities always claim that they have their privacy, the problem is that they always use lies to stand up for their rights. This behavior would arouse some bad feelings among the public and their fans would even feel being betrayed by their idols. This is another case to prove the low credibility towards celebrities in the showbiz.

Between the support and opposite side in this case, there is a comment in the middle range. As both of the characters cried in the press conference, the feel of sympathy towards their announcement of divorce is also demonstrated. However, there is disappointment as celebrities always deceive the public. A seven-minute press conference is perceived differently by four of us. According to the encoding-decoding model by Stuart Hall, different audiences will interpret different meanings of the same media text by using their implicit knowledge of both medium specific and broader cultural codes. In the discussion of the press conference, our group mates also have different ideas based on the same video clip. The issue of Charlene and Ronald has become another furor among the locals. No matter how we perceive this news, stand neutral or against the invasion of celebrities' privacy by Apple Daily, many of us still cannot stop our curiosity and hence, buy its newspapers and magazines for more detailed information of the story.


Karen, Kason, Man, Winnie: Week 10 "Theoretical Reflection"

Theoretical Reflection: Encoding-Decoding Model

Whenever the Hong Kong Government releases any type of promotional videos to endorse a harmonious community, different citizens respond and decode the message differently—they may fully accept the message, or, in contrast, fully oppose the message. This situation reflects the practice of Stuart Hall’s “encoding-decoding” model. In this reflection, we would examine how and why different audiences decode the Government’s 2010 Lunar New Year blessing video differently.

Hall’s influential essay “Encoding-Decoding”, published in 1973, was a major influence on cultural studies, focusing on the relationship between the media message (encoding) and interpretations of the message (decoding). It brings up an important idea of how messages are produced and disseminated, referring particularly to different media. Hall also pointed out that “the moment of encoding and that of decoding are socially contingent practices”. This model has been criticized to be involving three parties—Sender, Message, and Receiver. The Sender fixes and disseminates the meanings or messages in the form of symbolic vehicle, constituted within the rules of “language” or any form of communication. After the Message is sent to the Receiver, the Receiver requires knowledge and producing relations to further understand and decode in his/her own perception.

However the encoding and decoding process does not fit with every communication. Those engaged in the communication process who do not share “common codes and social positions” would likely undergo a different decoding process, resulting a different decoding from that of the intended meaning of the encoder. Termed by Umberto Eco, this scenario is defined as “aberrant decoding”, which refers “to a text which has been decoded by means of a different code from that used to encode it (Eco 1965)”. Eco claims that mass media tends to encourage the publics to form a particular interpretation, and since the mass media broadcast messages to heterogeneous audiences, it is inevitable for different decodings of such messages to appear.

In the government 2010 Lunar New Year blessing video, the Government aims to encode the message “it’s nice to go home (回家真好)” to Hong Kong citizens. Unlike the previous traditional Lunar New Year videos, which simply show the Chief Executive Donald Tsang walking around with his wife, enjoying the holidays, the 2010 version was the first Lunar New Year video featuring cartoon graphics with the “McDull (麥兜) style”. It is important to mention that the McDull character and style are symbolic of Hong Kong, since they are one of the most popular cartoon characters in Hong Kong and are created by local illustrators; the McDull stories are also reflective of the Hong Kong culture and society. Thus, by using the local McDull character and his friends, the government hopes to establish a common ground with the audience in order to encode feelings of closeness, warmth, harmony, and happiness in the Chinese New Year holidays. The video illustrates Tsang, McDull, and other people, such as students and office workers, going home happily to their love ones so as to reinforce the overall message. Moreover, the background music, called “Serenade 《小夜曲》”, written by the late Austrian composer Franz Schubert (舒伯特), is sweet, calm, and relaxing, which creates a warm and loving mood for the video. By using this video, the Hong Kong Government wishes to reinforce the enduring value of harmony among the public.

In general, most audiences may simply experience a dominant-hegemonic reading, fully accepting the original video’s encoded message, while other audiences did not. After the distribution of the blessing video from the Chief Executive, some democrats edited the original video clip in response. In contrast to the original video, the edited video is not as harmonious. In the original video, Tsang was going back home congenially, along with other Hong Kong citizens. In the edited version, however, one citizen was requesting for the Tsang’s concern, but was finally kicked away out of the frame by the Chief Executive. Tsang said that his boss is in Beijing (the Central Government), and it is unnecessary for him to take care of Hong Kong citizens’ views. Moreover, instead of lying in bed with his wife, Tsang was lying with Hu Jintao, the current Paramount Leader of China, giving appreciation to the imprisonment of human rights activists Tan Zuoren (譚作人) and Liu Xiaobo(劉曉波). “Is Donald good? (當奴真好?)”, the sender of the edited video asked at the end, subbing the statement of the original video. Actually, the Chinese question “當奴真好?” has another meaning—whether it is good to be a “slave” at the Hong Kong Government, since the Chinese word “” also means slave.

The Hong Kong citizen asking for CE’s concern

Original Video (Left): The CE back home with citizens congenially

Edited Video (Right): The CE kicked out the citizen

Original Video (Left): The CE lying on bed with Mrs Tsang

Edited Video (Right): The CE lying on bed with Hu Jintao

Original Video (Left): It’s good to back home & Edited Video (Right): Is Donald good?

So why is the encoded message from the Government interpreted and decoded by the audiences differently? From our point of view, there are a number of reasons. Firstly, the audience associated the video with the imprisonments of Tan Zuoren and Liu Xiaobo, because it was broadcasted during their lawsuits. The Government’s encoded message of “it’s nice to go home (回家真好)” signified that a warm family environment is desired by everyone. However, Tan Zuoren and Liu Xiaobo would be sent to jail very soon due to their criticisms to the Central Government. They could not “return home” for a long period. Audiences decode and interpret the video in a sarcastic way so as to reflect their dissatisfaction towards the Central Government. This interpretation is a typical example of oppositional-reading.

Lastly, the audiences deem that the Hong Kong Government follows the directions of the Central Government highly. So, they jokingly interpret “it’s nice to go home (回家真好)” as Tsang wanting to return to the home of Paramount Leader Hu Jintao. To a certain extent, the oppositional decoding reflects that the general publics have a high degree of disappointment towards the Government.

Links of the Videos

Edited Version:

“Serenade—Franz Schubert”