The twenty-first century has witnessed the emergence of feizhuliu (非主流, non-mainstream), a form of youth culture popular particularly amongst the Chinese post-1990s generation. Feizhuliu youth culture occurs predominantly online, and is characterized by hybrid, and somewhat exaggerated styles which reference a variety of transnational subcultural styles of online visual representation. These include Western categories like Goth, Punk and ‘emo’ culture, Japanese Hime (literally ‘princess’) and kawaii (cute) culture and the trendy Ulzzang culture (literally ‘best face’ or ‘good-looking’) in South Korea (Niu 2008, Zhang, X. M. 2009, Angie 2010). These categories offer different emotive implications and connotations for online images of feizhuliu, such as cute (ke’ai in Mandarin Chinese), the soft and fragile kawaii style and ‘tough’ or ‘hardcore’ Punk style. A large number of self-portrait photographs of feizhuliu
are easily accessible online and these play a pivotal role in constructing and mediating the public popular sense of a feizhuliu identity. Most of these feizhuliu images online portray girls rather than boys. This article focuses primarily on self-portrait photographs of feizhuliu girls considering the connotations of this style and its reference points for understanding contemporary Chinese modernity.