The cross over appeal of Hollywood actors to Chinese audiences is not as strong as other non-American markets. An exception is recent Oscar-winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio, who has a special place on China’ s internet.
You say Leonardo, they say “little Lee”
DiCaprio, or Litte Lee, as he is known locally, first became famous in China for his role in James Cameron’s Titanic – a huge cultural hit in China. Subsequently DiCaprio has become a recognizable icon for many Chinese netizens.
The Chinese internet has a popular trend around Leo-related imagery, including a shot of him fighting with a water gun (which is used as an emoticon) and animated gifs of him crying about ‘not having won an Oscar yet”. It is part of an online culture called “e-gao” – which edits recognized imagery in a fun way.
Ahead of the Academy Awards, a Leonardo game went viral – Leo’s Red Carpet Rampage. Users had to maneuver “Little Lee” so he could grab his first Oscar.
There was a lot of anticipation from his fans about watching the Academy Award show live online (it was over midday in China), but several sites, such as Iqiyi.com, cancelling their feeds at the last minute, meaning most local netizens only caught the news secondhand.
Now that Leo has his Oscar, Chinese netizens are trying to find their next award-less underdog to have fun with, with some suggesting Katy Perry for the Grammys and Japanese author Haruki Murakami for the Nobel Prize.