Friday, April 15, 2011

China Bans Everything Interesting From TV

When people ask me why I write science fiction and fantasy the answer, to me anyway, is obvious. Stories about ordinary people doing ordinary things are just boring, and I've never understood how even the best-written of them can go on to become big bestsellers. The same is true of the few television shows I actually watch, all of which fall under the science fiction, fantasy, or horror genres. It's a good thing I don't live in China, because the most recent guidelines for Chinese television effectively ban all of them.

The CNN article focuses on the guidelines banning time travel stories, but they are in fact far more sweeping, encompassing all sorts of other things including magick and the paranormal.

New guidelines issued on March 31 discourage plot lines that contain elements of "fantasy, time-travel, random compilations of mythical stories, bizarre plots, absurd techniques, even propagating feudal superstitions, fatalism and reincarnation, ambiguous moral lessons, and a lack of positive thinking."

“The government says … TV dramas shouldn’t have characters that travel back in time and rewrite history. They say this goes against Chinese heritage,” reports CNN’s Eunice Yoon. “They also say that myth, superstitions and reincarnation are all questionable.”

Take all those away and what's left? Ordinary people doing ordinary things. Boring.

I especially like (and by like I mean find utterly ridiculous) the prohibition on "bizarre plots" and "absurd techniques," which probably will be used to quash anything even marginally creative whether or not it contains science fiction or paranormal elements. Couldn't most comedy be described as "bizarre," "absurd," or both? So much for laughs.

I'm not sure what the Chinese censors hope to accomplish by making television dull. Escapist programs provide a pleasant diversion from the hardships of living in a totalitarian society, and if there's nothing worth watching the Chinese government might find itself with a revolution in its hands a lot sooner than anyone imagines. In fact, that scenario suggests a TV premise - "In order to make the Chinese revolution happen ten years sooner, the two of us will travel back in time and get the censors to issue guidelines banning interesting television. Then, in a desperate attempt to stave off boredom, the population will revolt!"

Yeah, on second thought I can see why the censors wouldn't want any of their networks airing that...

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Rob said...

I wonder if China's censorship is going to start effecting the Hong Kong movie industry. I know Hong Kong's local government is a bit special. To be honest I haven't kept up with the Hong Kong film scene in years, so maybe China's already trashed it. The Hong Kong film scene is full of fantasy, science fiction, and absurd plots, and it'd be a shame to see it's unique style of film go. Hell it'd be a shame to see the films coming out of mainland China, like Beijing, go.

Well at least I still have South Korea. That's kind of like a poor man's Hong Kong in terms of films.

Scott Stenwick said...

Hopefully this doesn't get extended to the film industry, because, yeah, Hong Kong films would pretty much be shut down if that ever happened. And I like Hong Kong films.

I'm not really up on South Korean cinema. I'll have to check that out at some point. Any recommendations?

Rob said...

Back when I was really into Asian cinema I remember seeing a lot of Korean stuff I wanted to see, but most of it was either region encoded or a PAL version meant for Europe, so it wasn't possible to watch most Korean films that didn't have an American release without special equipment. I think that's changed recently though, mainly due to some high-profile American releases like Old Boy and the Host, which have sparked some interest in Korean cinema in the states. On that note though Old Boy is a pretty cool movie, and I knew I wanted to see it from the trailer because the concept was good, but unfortunately the ending doesn't hold up to the rest of the movie (and with a movie like that it's very hard to have an ending that holds up to the rest).

Actually the main reason why I stopped watching Hong Kong movies was because I couldn't find a good importer, and I refuse to pay the huge markup on the US releases when they only offer the same crappy subs as the Hong Kong release and charge three times as much as a legitimate imported copy. If you have a good reputable online importer that ships movies on time please share. I'd really like to get back into Hong Kong films.