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Opinion

I’m addicted to this Chinese viral detective series on TikTok

By Alma Fabiani

Dec 24, 2020

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Internet culture

Dec 24, 2020

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When I say that I love TikTok (as true as it is) I always like to add that I’ve also learned to take everything with a pinch of salt, especially on social media, almost as if I’m trying to convince myself that this weird TikTok obsession I have developed can only become unhealthy if I forget the app’s numerous ethical issues. That’s why, just this once, for the sake of my argument, I will ask you all to leave your preconceptions about the app at the door. This is now a safe space so relax, and let me blow your mind with this new trend I’ve stumbled upon during one of my nightly TikTok sessions.

For those of you who don’t know, TikTok is what the app is named internationally, while Douyin, which means ‘shaking sound’ in Chinese, is the app used by most users in mainland China. Technically, Douyin is the same platform as what we know as TikTok, it is owned by ByteDance but separated from the rest of the world.

TikTok and Douyin have almost the same user interface but no access to each other’s content. Their servers are each based in the market where the respective app is available. The two products are similar, but features are not identical. Douyin includes an in-video search feature that can search by people’s face for more videos of them and other features such as buying, booking hotels and making geo-tagged reviews.

Often, while scrolling through my For You page, I see videos about the ‘Chinese TikTok’ and how amazing it is. Some people have even created video tutorials online showing how international users can download Douyin. And yet, for some reason, I never thought of Chinese users who might try to upload content on TikTok instead of Douyin (and succeed).

TikTok influencer @funcolle is one of them—a quick look at the creator’s content makes it clear that all her videos are filmed in China. With less than 35 TikTok videos posted on her account, @funcolle has amassed more than 940,000 followers and 15.4 million likes. What’s so special about her account, you ask? Each video posted by the creator consists of an ultra-short crime episode (usually no longer than 30 seconds) that users then have to solve and discuss in the comment section.

Now, hear me out before you decide to delve into @funcolle’s twisted world. All videos are in Chinese with English subtitles, and as far as I know, none of them is linked to another. The filming is impressive compared to what other TikTok videos have to offer and the acting… well, it’s over-the-top but you’ll get used to it soon enough.

Because explaining the ins and outs of @funcolle’s content without showing you some examples would be pretty boring, let me introduce you to some of her most viewed TikToks.

Mystery one

@funcolle

Will they both be in danger?

♬ original sound - Funcolle

Take this video for example, which has 2.5 million likes and more than 13,700 comments. The whole point behind watching this TikTok is for you as a user to find out what is wrong in this situation. The caption, which reads “Will they both be in danger?” aims to push fellow TikTokers to look for clues and comment what they think is suspicious.

If you watch this video for the first time without knowing what you’re supposed to do, you may think that the whole scene is slightly strange and miss the point. But watch it again, try to concentrate on those 30 seconds and you’ll find that the man in the lift is gripping the arm of the woman on the left and that she looks scared.

Watch it another time and you’ll probably be able to solve the mystery: the woman on the left is being held by that man, and by asking the other woman if she lives on the 19th floor when clearly she is getting off at the 15th floor, the woman is only trying to tell her that she’s the one who lives on the 19th floor and that she is in danger.

Although taking the time to concentrate on this specific video is part of the fun, scrolling through the comments section is definitely my favourite part. First, because I usually miss some details and like to be helped by close to 14,000 people but also because it makes me realise that I am not the only one obsessed with this kitsch detective series. Did you notice that even though the man tells the woman that he will cook for her tonight, she is holding two boxes of takeaway food? Me neither, but I read it in the comments section.

Many users who ended up finding @funcolle’s content on their For You page ask whether her videos are only short clips of a full-length movie, while others dispute more details of the intrigue.

I'm addicted to this Chinese viral detective series on TikTok

Mystery 2

In this skit, your first reaction was probably to assume that the man in the white t-shirt was trying to film under the woman’s skirt by putting his phone down on the floor, yet the man in the yellow t-shirt ended up getting in trouble. If you look closely (or if, like me, you end up in the comments section once more for help), you’ll notice that when the woman asked the man to press the button to her floor, he pressed it without asking which floor she meant. This implies that he already knew which floor she lives on and had been stalking her. Plot twist, right?

Mystery 3

@funcolle

Anything wrong with this room? Come on, my detectives!#foryou

♬ original sound - Funcolle

For this one, things get tougher, meaning I didn’t get anything that was happening at first. Two women arrive in what looks like a hotel room. While the first woman jumps on the bed claiming that she’s tired, the second one comes in looking like she smells something. She then proceeds to look around, notices that the showerhead is still warm and dripping when it shouldn’t.

By watching the video again, you’ll find that although the two women arrive in what should be a perfect room, in the toilets, the loo roll is already opened and the seat is up. In the room, the coffee machine has recently been used and some users have noticed a pair of shoes behind the bedroom’s curtain at 12 seconds. All these details seem to suggest that someone uninvited has been in the room and that both women are in danger.

I could go on and on with other videos, but I’ll let you do that on your own. Enjoy, and don’t get too obsessed!

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I’m addicted to this Chinese viral detective series on TikTok


By Alma Fabiani

Dec 24, 2020

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Opinion

I hated Emily in Paris (but still finished it)

By Alma Fabiani

Nov 5, 2020

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Entertainment

Nov 5, 2020

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Picture this: Parisians wearing berets, romantic scenes at every street corner and an omnipresent Eiffel Tower. This is what you’ll get watching Emily in Paris (or any other American series or movie taking place in Paris). As lovely as it may sound to some, let’s be honest here, this is not what the Parisian life is about. I should know, I grew up there. Here’s why Emily in Paris only deserves a one-star review—buckle up, you’re in for a treat.

Emily, who’s originally from Chicago and works for a marketing firm lands a job in Paris after her boss falls pregnant. Within four minutes of the series starting, Emily has already moved to the city of love in a ‘chambre de bonne’, the top floor flat where maids used to sleep. While chambres de bonne are infamous for being no bigger than a shoebox, Emily ends up with a decent loft. Already, something doesn’t look right here, but for the sake of it, I won’t linger on the price of Parisian flats. There’s one other problem left: Emily doesn’t speak a word of French.

Not to worry though, the season-long running joke somehow gets solved by Emily’s ‘fake it till you make it’ approach. In no less than the first three episodes of the show, Emily has already encountered all the French stereotypes you can think of: chain-smoking, wine before lunchtime, rare meat, handsome men in expensive suits talking openly about sex, croissants so good they made Emily have a mini orgasm and a hatred for American culture like no other.

What did the French do to deserve Emily in Paris? The show mostly consists of Emily not only encountering French clichés, clearly found on Wikipedia, but she adjusts them the American way too. In other words, Emily spends her time in Paris teaching her friends, colleagues and lovers a thing or two.

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two words to describe 2020

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In a similar Carrie Bradshaw-esque approach—after all, Emily in Paris was created by Darren Star, who also brought us Sex and the City—people, French people in this case, either hate or fall in love with Emily. It must be her tone-deaf charm, along with her ‘plouc’ attitude; so wholesome!

At times, viewers might even feel bad for the American stuck in Paris with aggressive, borderline predatory French people. It can be easy to forget that while she may be labelled as tacky, Emily still has the privileged experience of a slim, white woman. Emily in Paris is just another American interpretation of the city of lights, one that is blatantly whitewashing the diversity of the capital.

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, creator Star said he wanted to show Paris in a really wonderful way, and intended it as a “love letter to Paris.” Instead, he romanticised the city while also insulting its infamous residents. Poverty was obviously completely erased from the streets, when homelessness in France is in fact a significant social issue. The idea that everyone in Paris is rude is just not true. The idea that you can walk around freely and without a care in the world while wearing a head-to-toe Dior outfit is definitely not true either.

Emily is quick to accept unsolicited lingerie and kisses from older male clients (even in France, we call this sexual harassment), presumably because ‘that’s just what French men do’. Yet, Emily is utterly shocked and offended when a guy she has been flirting with all night tells her he likes “American pussy.” Granted, that’s probably not the pick up line she expected from a Parisian boy…

The final episode of season one sees a love triangle, which Emily is involved in, bien sur, getting broken up in a way that is supposed to be romantic but feels more like your typical betrayal. One thing Emily in Paris got right? No, cheating is not part of our cultural heritage, but I would be lying if I said it isn’t a common aspect of dating in Paris. Nice one Emily.

Emily in Paris has nothing to teach viewers about what it’s truly like to be a young person that lives and works in Paris (or anywhere else really). Posting a few selfies with the Eiffel Tower won’t make you Insta famous, we all know that. Why did I watch the whole show if I hated it so much, you wonder?

First, because every once in a while, it’s nice to numb your brain with some well-deserved American imperialism. And secondly, well because, that’s what Parisians do, we love to hate! C’est la vie!

I hated Emily in Paris (but still finished it)


By Alma Fabiani

Nov 5, 2020

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