Circulation of media on digital platforms is particularly compelling when it is both a product of, and product for, multiple international markets. The increasing convergence between Chinese and American media markets offers an exciting window into the growth of these multi-directional, multi-platform artifacts. In this piece, I would like to highlight the trailer for Shanghai Calling (2012), an independent Sino-U.S. film co-production directed by Daniel Shiao. The film’s trailer was not only on YouTube, but also on an analogous Chinese platform, Youku.
Whereas the YouTube site drew commentary entirely in English from users in both Anglophone and Sinophone markets, the Youku site drew commentary entirely in Mandarin, with the main exception being the English name “Daniel Henney,” in homage to the Seoul-based Korean-American heartthrob who headlines the film. The cross-platform commentary about Henney contrasts the global pull of stardom with the impulse toward using the specific language of the platform. Ultimately, the multi-platform, transnational distribution of the trailer creates a multi-lingual paratextual discussion of the film within local language media markets with global elements.
One of the major areas of importance of new film distribution platforms is the way in which they not only distribute, but also frame global media. The multi-platform distribution of the Shanghai Calling trailer encourages us to further inquire about the importance of context in determining what makes something funny, to whom and why. How does our understanding or appreciation of a specific image shift with the contextual cues offered by our viewing platform? Indeed, if the context of the platform subtly shifts perception of and discourse about specific clips, what are the broader implications of recent merger activity in the field of digital video distribution, including, but not limited to, the recent decision by Youku and competitor, Tudou, to join forces?