When China achieved another milestone last week with the first launch of a fighter jet off the deck of its first aircraft carrier, it also managed to launch something it wasn’t expecting – an internet craze. Forget ‘Gangnam Style’. From China comes ‘Carrier Style.’ The briefest of images of two yellow helmeted flight crew in a low squatting pointing gesture, as the J-15 fighter raced along the deck of the carrier, Liaoning, seems to be the image that has stuck in the minds of an awe-struck public.
Very quickly netizens the length and breadth of China began copying the dramatic pose, photographing themselves in various situations and locations and uploading their own ‘Carrier Style’ stance to the internet. One man, posing on his desk at work. Another in his pyjamas at home, complete with teddy bear. It is a craze that has spawned a wave of imitations, with millions of hits and even a few music videos.
China has been scratching its head at the unusual reaction. In a country enjoying its ‘firsts’ with increasing regularity, it normally expects more staid stuff. Successes from space exploration to deep sea oil drilling, are usually met with an outpouring of patriotic self-congratulation in media, both mainstream and social.
So it has been with the milestones recorded by the carrier Liaoning, as it has gone through commissioning and sea trials, right up to this first aircraft launch. For such an event to be given less-than-reverential treatment by some Chinese citizens, may not have pleased a number of others. But most reaction has been largely positive.
“It’s the netizens way of showing our patriotism for our country’s first carrier,” tweeted one person on Sina Weibo. For many China watchers, such a flurry of self deprecating humour is an encouraging indicator of healthy cultural development.
And those doing the imitating, have no fear of retribution or, even worse, ridicule. As a pose, this would seem to the perfect meme with the face turned away from camera, guaranteeing your anonymity. Put it another way, you can be as silly as you want and no-one will ever know it was you, except you.
That includes, of course, the two crew members who unwittingly sparked the craze, by just pointing the point in the way they’ve been trained, becoming in the past few days probably the two most viewed Chinese citizens, without anyone knowing who they are.