Imagine a pink fox character is dancing and acting cute on your screen. She has a normal job like yours and she works enthusiastically and never complains about it. She has her quirky ways to show up every day in Disneyland. She is social and outgoing when she meets other Disney characters. She is happy when she wears new and beautiful dresses and receives love from her fans. She confidently believes that she is the cutest. She cares about her body shape, and she will be angry at you if you say that she is getting fat. You can talk to her whatever you want, ask her to do some funny behaviours, and ask if she could give you a hug and a kiss. She is like any other ordinary girl, but this pink fox becomes the most popular celebrity in Chinese cyberspace and seems to have magic power over Chinese young females.
Why do Chinese young females find nobody else but Disney’s fictional pink fox as their ideal female celebrity?
In the fall of 2021, when LinaBell, a new friend of Duffy’s Family, was introduced to the public in Shanghai Disneyland, nobody could foresee the birth of the superstar among Chinese younger females. At the time of writing, the hashtag “LinaBell” had gained more than 9 billion views on the Chinese microblogging platform Weibo. Fans are buying up LinaBell merchandise, and they lined up for more than 4 hours in Shanghai Disneyland to talk to her in person and tell her how much support and comfort they have gained from watching her short videos every day for hours. Her enthusiastic fans commented on the internet: “LinaBell has cured me! Whenever I’m unhappy, I look at her, and I feel good again.”, “When I saw LinaBell, I started to believe in fairy tales again.”, and “When I saw LinaBell, my brain released so much dopamine. She is such a hardworking and energetic female celebrity!”
The relationship between the pink fox and her fans seems interesting and confusing. They called the pink fox, LinaBell, their “baby” and “daughter”, and at the same time, they talked to her as if LinaBell is their close and intimate friend. In those videos, unlike other characters of Disney, which act as if they are in the cartoons, LinaBell is closer to an ordinary contemporary professional girl whose job is to entertain and bring joy. In her short videos, she was sad, annoyed and pulled her sword out of her Halloween costume when her fans said she got fatter because she ate too much during the Chinese New Year. When her fans praised her as the most popular Chinese female celebrity and asked if they could be as cute as she was, she giggled and brag about her career success. When fans were crying in front of her and told her how she provides joy to their lives, she hugged them, blew kisses, and drew a big heart in the air.
The figure of LinaBell reflects the complex mentalities of the fans: they saw themselves in her as being imperfect and stressed under the social norms imposed on a young female, but the figure of LinaBell reminds them that they are still worthy of love despite those stresses and imperfection. On the other hand, LinaBell is conceived as the provider of love and care for their loneliness in this highly competitive society. Due to the little space for Chinese young female to reveal their vulnerability and longing for love in the metropolis, LinaBell provides a safe space for those vulnerabilities and longing as Chinese young females. In front of LinaBell, the fictional character and a commercial product, they feel they are in a dreamland and fairy tale, which society seems never to promise to them.