‘Big Bang Theory’ Gets Big Ban in China

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“The TV shows tells the story of four young men of science who made the mistake of devoting their lives to scientific research in a capitalist country…The show explores the racism, social inequality and the degenerate, promiscuous sexual lives of women in a Western society. It sounds a piercing alarm for the many young people in China who blindly seek to immigrate to the U.S.”
By @Chi Mu Xin Wei

If you happen to know the style of literary criticism during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, you might think the paragraph above is probably an excerpt from a review of an American TV show from that time. No, this is actually just a parody description written by a Chinese fan of “The Big Bang Theory” using Communist Party-friendly phrases to prevent the show from being taken down.

Last month, the Chinese government ordered four American TV shows to be removed from Chinese online streaming sites. In addition to “The Big Bang Theory,” “The Good Wife,” ”NCIS” and “The Practice” are no longer in the sight of their Chinese fans. Not surprisingly, the reactions from Chinese viewers are mixture of disappointment, anger and, in most cases, confusion.

This is not the first time that foreign shows got bounced out of China. Unlike previous take-down orders, the latest one has no explanation from the authorities. When you log on the shows’ pages, the only thing you will see is just a line of short explanation on the black screen: “The show can no longer be seen due to the policy.” To Chinese viewers, these are probably the simplest yet most complex 11 words in the world, which leaves them able to do nothing more than wonder what is going on.

Trying to figure out what’s behind the actions of China’s Internet censors can be as hard as reading a girl’s mind, especially this time. Given that Chinese film and TV censorship is still pretty shy and conservative, it would be more understandable to see shows like “Masters of Sex,” “The Walking Dead” and “House of Cards,” which touches more sensitive ideological issues, get stomped out. But “The Big Bang Theory” and “The Good Wife?” Really?

The latest cancellations reinforce the impression that censorship of foreign shows can be arbitrary. While fans are so freaked out and afraid that they might lose more loved American shows, China Central Television (CCTV), the state-run broadcaster, began airing the nudity- and violence-laden “Game of Thrones” dubbed into Chinese on a free channel. Meanwhile, rumor has it that CCTV is going to air a “healthy” version of “The Big Bang Theory” after reediting it.

China’s streaming video industry has grown rapidly in recent years, and American TV shows also have attracted millions of middle-class viewers. As more people have eschewed TV sets to watch their favorite shows online, YOU On Demand, China’s online video business, has grown into a cash cow. The revenue increased 41.9 percent in 2013, reaching 12.81 billion RMB, or about $2 billion. The revenue is expected to increase 38.7 percent this year and triple by 2017. Maybe it is too early to tell if this action from the Chinese government is trying to take a share of the spoils or profits from this hugely potential pool. We definitely can see those online streaming websites suffer the greatest damage if, for any reason, they can’t continue to broadcast the shows.

Weeks ago, more than 130,000 respondents in an online poll hosted by the Internet giant Sina, 95 percent of those polled voted against “banning” American television series. Here are some comments from a few who weighed in on the ban:

SnowMan: I thank the government and thank the Party! For truly going through a lot of trouble for the people!

Half summer rose: The curtains open on all the people retardedly watching Korean serial dramas, Taiwanese serial dramas, and stupid Chinese time-travel dramas.

ReadyFly: Can you first take down bangzi dramas and the domestic absurd, retarded TV serials?

zuluoxuan200: Absurd anti-Japanese War dramas, kimchi dramas, Qing Dynasty palace dramas, spare no effort to keep the masses ignorant.

For millions of Chinese fans who have already fallen in love with American TV shows, their concerns might not be about money. Their worries are simple and direct: What are they going to watch without American TV shows?

I certainly hope they don’t have to turn to those illegally copied DVDs …

Eva Xie is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.

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