China’s State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television is the chief government censor of media broadcasts, including, obviously, TV and movies. In the recent past, they’ve banned such films as Avatar, Borat, and The Departed. But in what’s possibly one of its oddest and most sweeping acts of censorship, the censors have completely banned any new time travel shows from being shown on Chinese TV. Why? Because they show bad history.
Now there’s an interesting trend in China’s film and television industry: more and more time-travel themed dramas are made and aired. In these time-travel based TV plays, usually the protagonist is from the modern time and for some reasons and via some means, travels through time and all the way back to the ancient China where he/she will constantly experience the “culture shock” but gradually get used to it and eventually develop a romance in that era. Though obviously the Chinese audience is found of this genre of shows, the country’s authority -General Bureau of Radio, Film and Television, to be exact, is not happy about this trend and calls a halt to the making of this type of drama.
From the end of last year, the time-travel themed drama is becoming more and more popular. Most of these time-travel dramas are based on real historical stories but with many newly added, and usually exaggerated elements to make it funny and more attractive. Nothing is off limits in this television genre. While some find it hilarious, others think the exaggeration and even ridiculous elements added into the story is a real source of annoyance and is a disrespectful for history.
The authority’s decision was made on the Television Director Committee Meeting on April 1st. – but obviously it’s not a prank to fans of the drama genre. The authority has a good reason to go against the genre. “The time-travel drama is becoming a hot theme for TV and films. But its content and the exaggerated performance style are questionable. Many stories are totally made-up and are made to strain for an effect of novelty. The producers and writers are treating the serious history in a frivolous way, which should by no means be encouraged anymore.”
As a general principle, I obviously don’t approve of censorship, but I admit to a certain sympathy for not wanting to see bad history on the air. Of course, from the perspective of the Chinese government, it’s tough to say whether it’s bad history or merely the wrong history.
Still, I think that the popularity of time travel in Chinese culture is a good thing. That’s because despite the sheer fantasy of time travel, I think the concept of time travel stories is important — especially when those stories involve conflicts with people in the past or changing the future. As a concept, these things corrode two common human fallacies — belief in fate, and belief that our ancestors were perfect and could do no wrong. For a country slowly emerging from dictatorship, those are good concepts to start getting rid of.
Thanks to Boing Boing for the link.