When it comes to censorship in media, you can’t get more strict than China. Everything from literature to television is under constant watch to make sure cultural revolutions and individual criticisms are averted. You can’t listen to Guns N’ Roses’ Chinese Democracy in China for obvious reasons. Television news broadcasts that may paint an ugly picture of China have been blacked out. They have even completely censored YouTube, Facebook and Flickr from their internet. These crazy bans have even spread into their cinemas which have become much more strict about certain movies allowed to screen in their country. Here are a few types of movies you can bet you won’t see in China. At least, not in the theater. They have everything on bootleg.
No child should be deprived of the cinematic masterpiece that is Back to the Future. But according to the Chinese, time-travel is a dangerous fictional element and the temporal antics of Marty McFly are highly inappropriate. Granted, kissing his mom in 1955 was gross, but that was only one scene. They believe the idea disrespects history, promotes superstition and is just downright silly.
The irony here being they don’t like the idea of distorting historical events even though that is exactly what they are doing by banning these movies. It’ll be like certain movie events never happened. The crew of the Enterprise will never capture that whale from the 1980’s, Austin Powers will never stop Doctor Evil from altering the past and The Time-Traveler’s Wife will just be a normal wife.
If the technology for time-travel is ever within our grasp, you can bet the Chinese will try to destroy it first. So I guess this means China won’t want to develop my idea for a Quantum Leap reboot.
Remember how cool Who Framed Roger Rabbit? looked featuring famous cartoon characters interacting with live-action characters? Well, this apparently scares the crap out of the Chinese government with their oddest ban on movies/TV series that mix live-action with animation. This includes movies like Garfield, Charlotte’s Web and Babe. So pretty much ANY movie with computer rendered characters is a big no-no.
The decision to ban media that blends live-action/animation hybrids comes not out of fear for the viewers, but for competition purposes. China wants to promote its own brand of homemade animation and feels that such a combination would ‘mislead’ animation production. If that logic doesn’t seem to make sense, it’s because it doesn’t.
As a follow-up to this ban, China also bans foreign animation on television in the evenings to make room for home-grown toons. It’s noble for China to be so anxious to throw their hat in the animation ring, but doing so through ridiculous bans just doesn’t seem like fair competition. Still, to be in the animation industry with the Chinese government covering your back must be a sweet job. That is, unless you break one of these other bans.
If you thought America was too homophobic, China makes us look like a gay commune. Brokeback Mountain was not allowed to be screened because the Chinese think two dudes kissing is gross. Farewell My Concubine is the only Chinese-language film to win at the Cannes festival, but was still banned in China because of the homosexual tones. Of all the crazy things China freaks out about, homosexuality seems to be such an odd concern. I could see why they view it as a threat to procreation, but, honestly, have they even looked at their population data. They have plenty of people. Are a few same-sex partners really going to make their country crumble? If anything, it’d probably help deal with over-population.
Satirical/Negative Depictions of China
I’m glad I live in a country where I have the freedom to write an article like this. I can’t imagine getting away with this in China especially since they are very anal about their national image. Any media depicting China as being corrupt, ridiculous or even just slightly off from their self-image is banned. Some examples of this include Devils on the Doorstep and Tomb Raider 2.
Needless to say, this also includes documentaries about China that are not pro-China propaganda. Why do all of you documentarians got to be hating on China? Is it so wrong to add CGI to the Olympics broadcast to cover up high visible levels of pollution? Sometimes they’ll edit a movie to display a better portrayal of the Chinese as in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. Chow Yun Fat’s footage from the film was trimmed by ten minutes which somehow makes for a better national image.
Satire of the Chinese can also get your film/TV series banned from the country. Examples of this includes South Park, The Simpsons, Family Guy, Sixteen Candles and pretty much any media with any sense of humor.
ANY Negative Depictions of Government Unity in General
If you can’t satirize something directly, you can always be subtle and work the message into a fictional work, right? Wrong! Even movies that depict an uprising or a corrupt government, not specifically China, can be banned based on the idea of insinuating a threat to the country’s unity or communism. And in China, unity is everything.
A good example of this was when they banned Avatar primarily based on the fears of inspiring a revolt. Not to mention it probably breaks that goofy law about live-action mixing with animation. They don’t want that creepy CG blood mixing with our pure reality blood. But, honestly, fearing Avatar would insight an uprising? Is the Chinese government so xenophobic and out of their minds to believe the popcorn entertainment of James Cameron is a threat to national unity? They must have had nightmares of rebels overthrowing the government in their blue make-up and pony tails.
James Cameron: writer, director, revolutionary inspiration. Would it have happened? I guess we’ll never know.
Here’s an abridged list of major feature-length films banned in China (previous to time travel ban)…
- Ben-Hur (1959)
- To Live (1994)
- Seven Years in Tibet (1997)
- Devils on the Doorstep (2000)
- Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (2005)
- Memoirs of a Geisha (2006)
- Brokeback Mountain (2006)
- The Departed (2006)
- Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006)
- Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007)
- Avatar (2009)
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