AUSTIN, Texas—If you've ever asked yourself how long a Black Mirror episode might take to turn into real life, the new documentary People's Republic of Desire has an answer: roughly four years.
Really, the best way to describe this feature-length look at Chinese Internet streamers is to point to the British series' first-season episode "Fifteen Million Merits," which aired in 2011 and starred Get Out's Daniel Kaluuya.
And the results aren't pretty.
Shen is one of the service's highest-ranking stars, and her feed consists primarily of her singing over karaoke-caliber MIDI tracks with a pedestrian voice—pleasant, not pretty—while responding to her viewers in either pedestrian or sexually charged ways.
The latter is championed as a diaosi "hero" by his mostly male fans, a fact that he shouts out repeatedly in referring to his fans as a "nation" and "army."
Li plays a few incredible roles at once: a beloved loser (which fuels his Chinese online fame), a prodigal son (whose family applauds his fame but demands he do more), a reveler in fame, a mess of a father, and a bumbling child when pushed to extremes by his own insecurities.