The finale of "A Journey to Love" has arrived, but the controversies surrounding this drama have not yet subsided. Starting with a high score of 7.5 on Douban (with over 30,000 reviews), the overall rating dropped to 6.9 with nearly 100,000 reviews after the release of the complete series. It is a pity that what should have been a major blockbuster drama at the end of the year has faced such setbacks.
During the early promotion, "A Journey to Love" consistently highlighted the independent character of the female lead, earning praise from all corners of the internet. However, as the plot progressed, discrepancies in the protagonist's storyline and character development emerged, leading to instances where the dialogue presented in the drama contradicted the actors' interpretations. "A Journey to Love" is Liu Shishi's first costume drama after her maternity leave, while for Liu Yuning, it is his first leading role in a costume drama.
1 - The spotlight in and out of the drama
The debates surrounding "A Journey to Love" have never ceased since its broadcast. The coherence of character development before and after has been another major point of contention. In the eyes of fans, the leading female protagonist, Ren Ruyi, experienced multiple aspects of weakening, such as in terms of her strength and prominence.
Especially concerning the plotline of "Ren Ruyi seeking revenge for the late emperor," which was heavily built up in the first 20 episodes, it was ultimately condensed into a mere 2 minutes of screen time, speeding through Ren Ruyi's planning, manipulation, and enemy killings at an incoherent pace. On the other hand, the character Li Tongguang was initially depicted as both intelligent and brave with remarkable achievements, but towards the end, he became full of inconsistencies.
These controversies have primarily been directed towards the male lead, Liu Yuning. Some fans believe that the production deliberately weakened other characters for the purpose of favoring Liu Yuning, even at the expense of the overall coherence of the work. Tan Fei, an industry insider, expressed concerns about such fan comments, stating that they seriously impact the perception of the drama by non-fans during its broadcast.
It is unreasonable to expect every character to have the highest prominence in an ensemble cast, and similar opinions are biased. The debates surrounding the drama will undoubtedly continue, but for Liu Yuning, who is at the center of this whirlpool, it highlights the challenges of transitioning from an internet celebrity to an actor.
2- Liu Yuning's transformation from an internet celebrity
Before becoming an actor, Liu Yuning had a rich resume. He worked as a chef and was a singer. As the lead vocalist of Modern Brothers, he covered numerous songs and persisted in live streaming. In 2019, Liu Yuning stepped onto the stage of the variety show "I Am a Singer," which helped increase his popularity. He subsequently participated in music-related variety shows such as the fourth season of "Mask Singer,", and "Our Song", establishing a presence in the field of singing.
At the same time, Liu Yuning began to venture into the film and television industry, initially by participating in various online dramas and low-budget web series. The turning point came in 2019 when Liu Yuning appeared in "Hot Blooded Youth," where his portrayal of Wei Chengfeng gained some recognition. He then starred in "Ultimate Note," which aired in 2020, further solidifying his presence and generating more discussions.
In 2021, "The Long Ballad" can be considered the work that propelled Liu Yuning's acting career. In this Tencent S+ level drama, Liu Yuning played the second male lead, Haodu, a loyal and affectionate knight. Although his screen time was limited, the character's development was fascinating, and his chemistry with the second female lead, Li Leyan played by Zhao Lusi, stood out, creating memorable moments for the audience.
In Liu Yuning's subsequent works, such as his role as Bai Choufei in "Heroes," and as Luomingxi in "The Legend of Anle," the audience often does not have high expectations for these supporting roles. However, Liu Yuning's performances have been well-received, pleasing the viewers. It was based on these accumulations that Liu Yuning was able to secure the role of Ning Yuanzhou in "A Journey to Love," his first leading role in a costume drama.
At the beginning of the drama's airing, debates regarding Liu Yuning's appearance and acting skills were ongoing. Some dissatisfied viewers even used AI face-swapping techniques to replace Liu Yuning's face with that of other actors, which sparked resentment from Liu Yuning's fans, leading to heated arguments between the two sides. Liu Yuning responded to this by expressing gratitude for the discussions about his character and hoping for everyone's increased support for "A Journey to Love."
Liu Yuning's response resolved the related controversies and also demonstrated how important "A Journey to Love" is for him, as an actor lacking representative works. Therefore, his fans have been particularly dedicated in maintaining the drama's reputation. If the same controversies were placed on actors with a wealth of representative works, perhaps they would not have caused such a significant dispute.
Regardless of the number of controversies surrounding "A Journey to Love," Liu Yuning's acting career continues to thrive, with many upcoming projects, each of which holds considerable weight. These projects include "The Prisoner of Beauty," in which he co-stars with Song Zuer, "The Legend of Jewelry," in which he partners with Zhao Lusi, "Cicada Girls," in which he collaborates with Wang Ziwen, and "A Dream within a Dream," in which he teams up with Li Yitong. Notably, the latter project is produced by Ningmeng Film and Television, making it a particularly impressive collaboration.
Interestingly, prior to the announcement of "The Prisoner of Beauty," there were rumors of a rivalry between the fans of the male and female leads, leading to an intensely heated debate, much like the situation with "A Journey to Love."
3 - The ultimate destiny of internet celebrities
From smoothly transitioning from internet celebrities to successful leading actors, Liu Yuning's transformational journey can be said to be very successful, to the point that it is not easy to find another case that can rival him in the entire internet celebrity industry.
Compared to the conventional channels for training actors and child stars, in the current era of the increasing popularization of self-media, internet celebrities have become one of the stable channels for supplying talent to film and television actors. Especially in the fields of movies, web movies, and short dramas, the appeal of internet celebrity actors is not inferior to professional actors.
However, in the field of long dramas, the difficulty for internet celebrity actors to transition is somewhat high. The training time is short, the screen time is long, and the wide screen widens the proportion of the face, which requires high performance, lines, appearance, and affinity for actors. In the highly acclaimed drama "There Will Be Ample Time" that aired this year, Li Xueqin, as one of the main actors, has gained recognition for her acting skills.
From initially recording videos and shouting messages to stars from a distance, getting a response and gaining attention, Li Xueqin has gone through a transformational journey from internet celebrity to actor and now has her own representative work.
After gaining initial attention, Li Xueqin made a name for herself in stand-up comedy and participated in various variety shows such as "Rock & Roast". She even had her own variety show called "Mao Xue Woof". She also made guest appearances in various film and television works, such as this year's movie "Dancing Green" and last year's "Post Truth". The success of "There Will Be Ample Time" can be considered as a result of her accumulation over the past few years.
Fei Qiming's and Liu Yuning's starting paths are quite similar. They are both known as singing internet celebrities and have established themselves in the entertainment industry through participating in various talent shows or music variety shows, and polishing their skills through web dramas. This year, Fei Qiming has two works, "Under the Microscope" and "Ray of Light". As supporting roles in these two dramas, his performance is excellent.
It should be said that Fei Qiming still needs a leading role in a drama to enhance his reputation and become his representative work. In his list of upcoming dramas, there is a sci-fi drama called "The Wanderers". If the quality is good, Fei Qiming also has the potential to replicate Liu Yuning's path and become a representative figure of internet celebrity actors who have successfully transitioned and become leading actors.
Zhang Yuxi's development is slightly less impressive. Before entering the entertainment industry, she was a model, and with her looks, Zhang Yuxi has participated in multiple variety shows, accumulating higher popularity and fame. In the early stages of her acting career, she mainly played roles with limited screen time and fixed image labels. She has appeared in works such as "Ruyi's Royal Love in the Palace" and "Love and Redemption". There is still room for improvement in terms of reputation, popularity, and influence. Among the upcoming dramas, projects such as "Douluo Continent 2" and "Hero Is Back" are highly anticipated and may help facilitate her successful transition.
Yi Mengling also aims to enter the entertainment industry from the world of internet celebrities. Previously, she gained further popularity through various variety shows. However, her acting career has not been smooth. Recently, there have been rumors of her participating in Guo Jingming's new drama "Fangs of Fortune". It seems that she still needs a suitable opportunity and role to successfully transition into an actress.
There are also many cases of internet celebrities failing to transition into actors. For example, internet celebrity Nan Sheng initially gained popularity with a set of retro photos and entered the entertainment industry after becoming famous. In 2017, Nan Sheng participated in the drama "Princess Agents", and after leaving behind filters and photo editing, her appearance was questioned, which to some extent affected her subsequent development in the acting industry.
It can be seen that there is still a certain gap between wide-screen dramas and photos that have been heavily edited. The transition from internet celebrity to actor is not something that can be easily achieved. It requires a combination of opportunities, talent, and post-training.
Thus, we can roughly summarize the trajectory of internet celebrities transitioning into actors: becoming famous as internet celebrities, participating in variety shows to increase their popularity, and finally appearing in film and television works. The lucky ones who accumulate experience through several works can break through and become leading actors, while others may remain in supporting roles or even face setbacks in the film and television industry.