Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Censor Strikes Back


The peace loving government of the People's Republic of China has apparently chosen a new enemy, sci fi.
Per the latest guidelines sent out March 31 plots 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. 
are no longer allowed.
This CNN article mostly focuses on time travel, and a few of the big movies that can no longer be shown in freedom loving China. But let's really think about how far this censorship is going.
Fantasy, well that eliminates most sci fi right there, and anything like Lord of The Rings with mythical creatures. Its honestly a very broad term. A good chunk of tv, movies, and books use some form of fantasy. Look at how huge Harry Potter and Twilight are. Magic and Vampires are definitely within the boundaries of fantasy. And of course Star Wars, the ability to control the force is a fantasy power, so no Jedi or Sith allowed. Not to mention dragons, which are extremely tied up witin Chinese identity.
Time Travel has been a part of society since at least the publishing of The Time Traveller. List of tv, movies, and books that use the theory as fact for their basis is quite long. Temporal travel has become a favourite of the Star Trek series. Terminator is based on it. 7 Days, a show I used to enjoy when it was on the air, couldn't have happened without it. And one of my favourite shows of all time Stargate SG1 used it more than a few times, as did its progeny Stargate Atlantis.
But even better are phrases like "bizarre plots", "absurd techniques", "ambiguous moral lessons", and "a lack of positive thinking". Those are so vague and all encompassing anything at anytime could be banned just because a censor felt like it. Even kids shows have all of those. Adult drama's all the more so. We as humans enjoy twists in our stories. And whilst we may really want the happy ending, we are totally accepting when evil does win a bit or someone dies. As much as we enjoy our fiction, it never works without reality being entwined with it.
Worst of all is the real target. Its not a goal of keeping people from enjoying themselves. The real target here is imagination. If people can no longer imagine a world where Marty McFly can travel Back to The Future; or a land where men, orcs, dwarfs, elves, hobbits, and wizards fight in a war over a single ring; or force users with lightsabers duel over the fate of a galaxy far far away; then might not they lose the ability to imagine themselves as free men?

As Americans this should be more than a joking matter. This is a truly serious issue. Our government already censors what we can watch, hear, and read. Lately they have been aiming at controlling the internet as well. Do you really think that those who want that control, wouldn't love to make it so all we could see, hear, and feel was puppies, rainbows, and unicorns?
We need to pay attention now, and make sure our government never gets close to limiting us so much.

(This article can also be found on Landmark Report