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A teenage British boy was probably looking for some social media love when he posted a series of selfies on Instagram boasting of his resemblance to Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch. But the response he received appears to have been as overwhelming as it was unexpected.
Within days of posting the photos — several juxtaposing cropped portraits of himself and the 37-year-old British movie star side by side — the teen began receiving hundreds, then thousands, of comments in Chinese.
Sherlock and other British dramas such as Downton Abbey have recently emerged as top draws on China’s popular streaming video sites, as they tend to be perceived among Chinese elites as the most sophisticated shows in the international TV landscape. Chinese television critics have taken to calling the country’s TV audience hierarchy the “disdain chain,” in which fans of British TV look down on fans of U.S. shows, while aficionados of American TV diss Korean soap fans, who themselves turn their noses up at the legions of less cosmopolitan viewers who simply like local Chinese television.
Describing himself as 16 years old and living in the U.K. city of Norfolk, the teenager tagged his photos with “#cumberbatch, #sherlock, #benedict,” and posted a screengrab of the actor’s appearance on British motorsport talk show Top Gear, commenting, “Watching myself on TV.”
“You are truly a baby Benedict!” wrote one Chinese admirer.
“You should post some videos of you pretending to be Sherlock,” posted another, adding, “Say some quotes, please?”
“I saw u just now on Sina Weibo,” another wrote, as the British teenager’s photos began trending independently on China’s Twitter-like social media service.
Seemingly overwhelmed, the teenager responded to the wave of Chinese comments coldly, posting a screenshot of a note which read: “Chinese followers. Stop commenting on all my stuff.”
As quickly as they had become idolatrous, many of his Chinese followers — a majority of whom appear to be female — lashed back at the British teenager. His follower numbers plummeted and within hours the note photo attracted over 4,000 comments.
“You wanted to be famous and the Chinese followers made it [come true]. Everything has double sides… It’s just what u need to pay for being famous,” wrote one follower.
Others suggested he set his account to private or stop comparing himself to a movie star if he didn’t like the attention, while others took greater umbrage, saying that his response to the attention was nothing less than racist.
Yet many also came to his defense, urging fellow followers to give him some space and respect his privacy. “I’m Chinese but I like you, apologize for those who offend you,” wrote one fan girl.
“What did the boy do to deserve all the hate?” posted another.
The incident was picked up in the mainstream Hong Kong press, with the South China Morning Post running a story in its Monday print edition.
The teenager has yet to respond to the thousands of recent comments.
“Wtf, he’s just a Cumberbatch look-alike… Some fans are just crazy,” wrote one of the most recent commentators, identifying herself on Instagram as, “From Shanghai, love cities, love European stuff, loooove Sherlock.”
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