China Bans Time Travel (but not Tomorrowland)

I’m not sure who’s making the decisions in China these days. It feels like an episode of Celebrity Apprentice; one day things seem to be going well (as if John Rich or Marlee Matlin were calling the shots) and the next day it feels like things are off-track (and LaToya Jackson or Gary Busey are running things). Just when you thought the Chinese government was loosening up a bit in terms of their comfort zone with creative thought and imagination (the plans for Shanghai Disney resort are advancing nicely, for example), along comes the news that they are banning time travel in film and TV shows.

That’s right, in case you hadn’t heard — the $4.4 billion Shanghai Disney resort is expected to open in late 2015 with a Magic Kingdom-style theme park, two hotels and a Downtown Disney shopping center. There’s only one problem — the Chinese government has banned time travel in entertainment. I guess it’s time for the age-old communist practice of rewriting history to suit the current oppressive needs. Will Shanghai Disneyland include Tomorrowland, now that they have to reconcile the principles of Chairman Mao with their introduction of Mickey Mao?

Here is the kind of dangerous programming the Chinese government fears…

Brilliant. If there were 7-UP commercials that smart here in the US, I’d drink the soft-drink just to show my support.

You see, China doesn’t want to go back to the future… or even back the past, for that matter. The Chinese government has banned any depiction of time travel in TV shows and films because the plot element “disrespects history.”
In a statement, China’s State Administration for Radio, Film & Television said that fictional time-traveling in programs “casually make up myths, have monstrous and weird plots, use absurd tactics, and even promote feudalism, superstition, fatalism and reincarnation.”

Here is the full statement. Read it for yourself and you’ll see what I mean…
【发布时间】:2011-03-31 14:02 【信息来源】:办公厅
  按题材划分,当代题材33部、942集,分别占公示总数的50.0%和48.04%,其中 ,当代军旅题材1部30集,当代都市题材25部744集,当代涉案题材4部93集,当代科幻题材1部35集,当代其它题材2部40集。现代题材2部、55集,分别占公示总数的3.03%和2.8%,其中 ,现代军旅题材1部30集,现代其它题材1部25集。近代题材28部、864集,分别占公示总数的42.42%和44.06%,其中 ,近代都市题材1部25集,近代传奇题材11部332集,近代革命题材15部477集,近代其它题材1部30集。古代题材3部、100集,分别占公示总数的4.55%和5.1%,其中 ,古代宫廷题材2部70集,古代武打题材1部30集。批准立项的重大革命题材电视剧目2部、65集 。本月申报的剧目中,因内容或手续不全问题暂不予公示的剧目共29部、822集。

…and you thought Michelle Obama’s need to control McDonald’s “Happy Meals” was a little oppressive.

Are the Chinese just determined to raise children with absolutely no sense of creativity or imagination? Or, this being the 90th anniversary of the Communist party (CPC), do they just want to maintain complete control over any portrayal of the events depicted in TV shows looking back in history?

Apparently, time-traveling Chinese shows have been prevalent lately, featuring characters traveling back to ancient times. The issued guidelines discourage producers and writers from using time travel, along with any elements that contain “fantasy … random compilations of mythical stories, bizarre plots, absurd techniques,” if they want their programs to stay on the air. Of course, the governement can still pull the plug on any show whenever it wants, for any (or no) reason at all.

I still don’t get it. Something about opening a Disney theme park in Shanghai (the theme of which will be the romantic portrayal of the past alongside the technologically-driven portrayal of the future) just doesn’t gel with the Chinese impulse to erase thoughts of time travel. It’s the usual Chinese “progress” — one step forward, one step backward, and 1,331,460,000 steps in place.

Why are Chinese authorities concerned with this in the first place? Doesn’t the government realize the end result will be two things? (That’s right, it’s the good old law of unintended consequences). One — to drive up the illegal bootlegs of any TV shows or films that have anything to do with time travel. And two — to inspire a scientist there to work secretly on a time travel machine to go back and make sure this ban on time travel never took place.

And maybe even Communism, while they’re at it.

Greg Victor

Greg Victor (Parcbench Culture Editor) covers the world for Parcbench... from the Biennale in Venice, to Centre Court in Wimbledon, to Rhythm & Roots Reunion in Bristol, Tennessee. He is based in New York City and frequently on the road.

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About Greg Victor

Greg Victor (Parcbench Culture Editor) covers the world for Parcbench... from the Biennale in Venice, to Centre Court in Wimbledon, to Rhythm & Roots Reunion in Bristol, Tennessee. He is based in New York City and frequently on the road.
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