Mixed Blood between Fans and Anti-fans: The Collective Identity of Dog Fans in China Social Media


Contrary to the usual fandom research that treats fans as avid enthusiasts, this study focuses on a group of fans who use verbal bullying and slander as a collective action. Dog fans are a collective name for fans of a Chinese game anchor Sun Xiaochuan. The word dog is insulting in the Chinese Internet language, however, it is used by fans to call themselves. Their idol Sun Xiaochuan is not a successful online game anchor or even his E-sports level is poor, but he is still sought after.

The daily behavior of dog fans is to insult Sun, and deliberately give him many charges, and threaten to report him to the police. In the name of Sun, fans verbally bullied other celebrities and their fans on the Internet, especially male idols with a lot of young female fans, such as Cai Xukun and Cris Wu. The most famous case is that dog fans collectively insulted Edison Chen on Twitter, and Edison Chen wrongly scolded Sun Xiaochuan, triggering a farce. Among dog fans, daily cyber-bullying is called 'halitosis culture', which means 'culture of swearing.' Based on the above observations and judgments, this study attempts to figure out the following two questions:

1. Do dog fans have a collective identity? How is this identity formed?

2. What is the motivation behind the collective behavior of dog fan verbal bullying Sun Xiaochuan?

In addition to observation and text analysis, this study adopts in-depth interviews. I interviewed 20 dog fans who must have the 'Iron Fan' logo on, which guarantees that they have sufficient interaction with Sun Xiaochuan from the algorithm level. The content of the interview included how they become dog fans, their use, and satisfaction in overall buying, how they think of themselves and other dog fans' behavior, and how they think of Sun’s role. Two conclusions have been drawn:

1. Dog fans use verbal bullying as a sign of identity and obtaining collective identity as a purpose of action. They and their idol Sun established a new type of 'fan-idol' relationship between traditional fans and anti-fans. On the one hand, grassroots idols and fans have similar life experiences and world views, which makes them close or even equal. On the other hand, Sun's fame sparked jealousy among fans, who gained psychological balance by verbally bullying.

2. Dog fans try to create a fan culture that is not based on love and worship in social media, alleviate the sense of deprivation in offline life, experience the pleasure of deviant behavior in carnival verbal bullying, and express their thoughts on the personal life and social issues. Fan culture is deconstructed and reconstructed by dog fans. They use the verbal bullying of performance art to express their anger towards personal worship, and at the same time borrow the model of fan culture, that is, to create an idol, so as to build a platform for themselves who have no space for expression.

Keywords: Anti-Fans; Fandom; Collective Identity; Cyber Bullying; Internet Celebrity;