‘People’s Republic of Desire’: The Documentary Exploring the Meaning of Internet Fame in China

Shen Man
Courtesy of Jingyang Cheng

Anyone with an iPhone can live stream. But in China, some young people have figured out how to turn their feeds into a career. In People’s Republic of Desire, we meet a “host” named Shen Man, who earns $40,000 a month singing pop tunes to her followers and uses the money to support her parents. Big Li, another star, mostly just boasts about himself, while the uber-rich men who bankroll him and the other hosts wield a curious power over them. The film, like an all-too-real episode of Black Mirror, probes the meaning of internet fame amid limited social mobility, perhaps providing a glimpse into our future stateside. —J.R. Sullivan

People’s Republic of Desire airs 2/25 on PBS