Sun, Feb 24, 2008 - Page 8 News List

LETTERS: Edison Chen is a celebrity

Edison Chen, though a victim himself, is a celebrity who can never be a "role model."

The racy photos of the seemingly calm Chen -- a 27-year-old Cantonese-Canadian actor -- and some of the most sought-after female celebrities in the fame and fortune-obsessed city of Hong Kong have been spread virtually everywhere throughout Chinese-speaking cyberspace for the past few tumultuous weeks.

We know the girls have been disgraced and Chen has apologized amid a tsunami of camera flashes in a packed press conference of more than 300 juice-hungry local and foreign journalists.

But there are some very important but apparently forgotten points that I want to make here. First of all, before the investigators announce whether or not Chen did force or drug the girls to take the photos in sexually suggestive poses, both the girls and Chen are victims. Chen is a victim himself. Legally he's not a victimizer at this point, as the Hong Kong police have not yet completed their probe.

"I have failed as a role model. However I hope that this matter will teach everyone a lesson," said a contrite Chen who refused to take any questions from the media.

But wait a minute, what kind of "role model" has Chen ever been? And what lesson should all of us learn from this brouhaha?

Chen's spoiled-kid, bad-boy, Eminem-like image has secured him numerous endorsement contracts with such international brands as Pepsi, Nike, Levi's and Samsung. Perhaps he's been an effective product endorser and talented musician enjoying a huge teen following in Asia, but a critically acclaimed actor in ultra-competitive Hong Kong? Not really -- he hasn't been that.

Not until this sex scandal broke out and sent shockwaves across the Chinese community did Chen receive instant, overnight international media coverage, thanks largely to CNN, Google and YouTube.

Media reports have suggested that the fact that Chen is from a broken family meant he was raised without proper parenting, which led to a life of sex, drugs and drunk driving, contributing to his brattish persona both on and off screen. The implied message is that such a man can never be a suitable role model for an impressionable teen audience.

No matter if you like Chen or not, many supportive fans consider it a loss now that Chen has announced his indefinite retreat from Hong Kong's glitzy, bling-bling showbiz industry.

"I have decided to do this to give myself an opportunity to heal myself and to search my soul. I will dedicate my time to charity and community work over the next few months," said Chen as he concluded his seven-minute, gingerly worded statement.

Indeed, Asia's Eminem became a victim the moment the sexually graphic images were copied from his computer when he sent it in for repairs.

But while the musical, cinematic up-and-comer can be pleasantly consumed by all of us as a gifted entertainer, he can not be looked up to morally from now on. Let entertainment be entertainment and leave charity work to the professionals and interest groups.

Roger Cheng

Taipei

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