Let me tell ya about Edison Chen’s dirty photos

With the possible exception of Disney villains, Imagethief cannot think of a group of people that more richly deserve their miserable fates than Hong Kong celebrity Edison Chen and his cavalcade of cupcakes.

If I sound unsympathetic here, that is because I am unsympathetic. Really, how dumb do you need to be? On all sides? Girls, here’s a free piece of advice for you from your friendly neighborhood PR man: If you let a guy take digital nudie pix of you, sooner or later those pix are going to end up on the Internet. Not maybe. Not could be. Inevitably. The Internet is like a gravity well for nudity, and there is a 100 percent chance those pictures will end up there someday. Probably the week of your wedding.

And the guy might not even mean to do it. Edison Chen presumably didn’t mean to plaster Gillian Chung’s ass all over the Internet, thus ensuring that formerly semi-wholesome pop group Twins is now destined to be remembered forever as some kind of tawdry porn-o-rama. (This is the same Gillian Chung who was a spokeswoman for premarital chastity, by the way, illustrating once again a timeless lesson about the value of celebrities as role models.) I’m sure he thought he’d keep those snaps as his private treat. Or maybe share them with just a couple of close friends over beers.

But –and I say this with affection for my gender– dudes are stupid. We’re especially stupid when it comes to managing technology effectively. We like to portray ourselves as masters of technological realm, with amazing powers of digital wizardry. But a little knowledge is a dangerous thing and in reality we’re as screwed over by modern technology as your grandmother. Probably worse, because at least she doesn’t pretend to understand it. We’d rather die –or inflict crushing humiliation on our girlfriends– than admit weakness.

This is important, because only someone who is totally screwed over by modern technology would think to leave hundreds of pictures of himself banging eight different starlets sitting on an unencrypted laptop hardrive. Laptops get lost. Laptops get stolen. Laptops get filched off the back seat of your Lexus when no one is looking. Laptops fall out of overhead bins on airplanes and land on people’s heads, causing the porn to fall right out of them. Laptops break spontaneously, like Chihuahua dogs, and need to be sent in for repairs.

Edison Chen had a customized pink Macbook that broke. He took it in for repairs. I don’t know if you’ve ever had a computer repaired before, but certainly on the mainland many such repairs are handled by spotty young men who have never had sex and have no immediate prospects of having sex. A customized pink laptop might as well be stenciled, “raid me for porn”. If you didn’t know otherwise you’d probably think it belonged to a chick (or an incredibly flamboyant gay man, but odds favor a chick). And that’s pure temptation, because the kind of girl who would have a customized pink Macbook would probably also have vanity lingerie shots somewhere on the hard drive. You might as well hand a mirror with six lines of primo Andean nostril icing and a rolled up twenty to a Hollywood agent and say, “Dude, I’m going out to have my ass waxed. For the love of god, whatever you do, don’t snort this excellent coke!

For people who must indulge in personal porn, Imagethief offers two words: encrypted + files. It just ain’t that hard, even for troglodytes.

And the stakes are high. There’s no getting the porn genie back in the bottle. Even the Chinese government and their splendiferous Golden Shield (which, now that I think about it, really sounds like a condom brand) can’t keep smut under control. Rabbits on Viagra and Benzedrine have nothing on the speed with which anything having to do with female nudity replicates on the Internet. Like the herpes virus, it can be driven out of sight for a while, but it’s always still there, waiting to erupt painfully at the worst possible moment. So, as always, an ounce of prevention is worth is a pound of cure, especially when what you’re preventing is every newspaper in Hong Kong running a four page spread (and I don’t use that word lightly) of gynecologically explicit photographs of you.

Now, about the reaction to the photos. ESWN has posted an exhaustive chronicle of fifteen days of breathless (but certainly not breastless) Hong Kong media coverage of the scandal. Tianya is, I gather, now all Edison & Co., all the time. Nobody anywhere should be shocked. I come from the country that has documented the decline and fall of Britney Spears with a ruthless detail that would give Edward Gibbon the sweats, if he hadn’t died in 1794 when carrier pigeons were still all the rage in high speed communication. There is really nothing a society likes better than celebrities imploding. Especially if it’s imploding naked starlets.

Just say it out loud once, to get the taste of the words in your mouth: Imploding, naked starlets. Then tell me how any free media anywhere is going to resist. Now, imagine in particular the Hong Kong media, with its tradition of restraint, good taste, and sober, intellectual journalism. Now stop tut-tutting and go pick up the latest Oriental Sunday. You know you want to.

I suppose I would be slacking if I didn’t offer some PR advice to all of the affected parties. This should be taken lightly as I freely admit to being a corporate PR person with no experience as a celebrity publicist. No crisis I have ever worked on has involved public nudity (although I keep hoping. as long as it’s not my own public nudity).

The sad fact is that it’s going to be much easier on Edison than on Gillian, Cecilia, Bobo (oddly named for a girl, even in Hong Kong) and the other women. That’s because the universal double standard will unfortunately apply. Dudes who bed strings of starlets are swinging studs who will be admired by other men everywhere. Even if, inexplicably for straight guys, they have pink laptop computers. (Although it does occur to me now that I read this back that the entire episode has an air of “prove you are straight” overcompensation about it.) Edison needs only issue a public apology to the fans and affected girls and retire from the limelight for an appropriate spell of restorative contemplation before re-emerging a better man and, purely by accident you understand, using the momentum of the scandal to plug his latest project.

Unfortunately girls who allow themselves to be photographed in flagrante by their boyfriends and who are then unlucky enough to have those pictures sucked into the vortex of the Internet face a tougher path. Their public images will most likely not be enhanced, at least not in the circles that count for a mainstream career. Unless they’re Paris Hilton, who, in Imagethief’s book, is the exception that proves the rule. Remember, unless that camera was disguised as a riding crop or a tube of Astroglide, these weren’t sneak pix.

Apologies all around then, and perhaps a confession that the pictures were taken at “a difficult time” (it’s going to be funny how many of these girls were dating Edison at “a difficult time”). This can be followed by a spell in rehab, which is the modern equivalent of slinking away to join a convent without the shaven head or any of the other obnoxious religious rituals and the added bonus that it is temporary. After that we’ll see how it goes. Gillian probably survives. As for Bobo, well, it’s anyone’s guess.

So girls, next time the camera comes out in that moment of passion, remember the Internet porn gravity well, poor Bobo, and the fact that dudes are idiots. If a late-career resurrection is what you want, pose for a professional so you can reap the benefits of props, makeup and –most important– airbrushing. Otherwise, gently demure and preserve the element of mystery that is so critical to a woman’s public image. Nobody looks sexy photographed up close on a cheap digital camera under bedroom lighting with their lips wrapped around some guy’s, um, memory stick.

And if your boyfriend insists, kick him in the pills. It’ll be much harder for him to take a steady picture while he’s staggering around holding his crotch and you’ll have time to make a quick getaway.

See also:

  • John Kennedy’s piece on the police response to the scandal on Global Voices
  • The extensive Wikipedia page (B) on the scandal, which includes almost sixty references and an invaluable though slightly out-of-date chart of how many photos have been posted of each starlet (Cecilia Cheung led at press time). And to think some people say Wikipedia is a waste of time:


  • I knew this would happen and I didn’t control for it, which perhaps I should have. You should see the Google strings that are turning up in my referrals now. Example:http://google.com/search?q=edison+chen+eating+out+gillian&hl=en&start=10&sa=n

    I don’t think that string is looking for a picture of the two of them at a restaurant.

  • Further proof of idiocy. This clown sold his computer on E-bay with his illegally videotaped k!ddie p*rn still on it. One assumes he secretly wanted the pain to end. I think we can all be happy he *didn’t* encrypt his hard drive.
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