The Elite Class Background of Wang Shuo and His Hooligan Characters

Submitted by James Miller on Mon, 05/25/2009 - 12:24
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TitleThe Elite Class Background of Wang Shuo and His Hooligan Characters
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2004
AuthorsYao, Y.
JournalModern China
Date PublishedOct
KeywordsElite Class Background

The Cultural Revolution provided a unique environment for children of the political elite to develop a new kind of hooliganism and a youth counterculture that contradicted Mao's aim to empower them for making revolution. The author challenges a view commonly held by Western commentators and scholars that Wang Shuo is a writer of "common man" fiction by highlighting the aristocratic background of his Cultural Revolution-era hooligan characters. In the post-Mao era, these former aristocratic youth hooligans tried to adapt to the new environment of growing commercialism and materialism. Some successfully joined the new elite through legal or illegal means, while those who failed to do so became marginalized and even impoverished. The author argues that it was the latter who felt the need to develop to perfection the skill of fast talk and an irreverent, knowing, and playful attitude, which helped them to maintain a sense of superiority. Glorified by Wang Shuo in his stories and commentary, the hooligan characters captured the imagination of many Chinese, especially the younger generations who feel marginalized and alienated, by legitimizing their desires and frustrations and by subverting the dominant ideology and culture.