In response to the Chinese government’s removal of his show from online streaming sites, The Big Bang Theory creator Chuck Lorre used one of his trademark vanity cards to share his thoughts on the matter:
“The government of China has decided that “The Big Bang Theory” is not appropriate for viewing. I have to assume there was some sort of formal process involved in this decision. In all likelihood, a gaggle of communists sat in a darkened room and watched a few episodes. I like to think they took notes that were later used to formulate an official document that detailed the corrosive cultural effects caused by the shenanigans of Sheldon, Leonard, Penny, Wolowitz, Koothrappali, Amy and Bernadette. I like to think that during these screenings one of them laughed out loud and was promptly sent to a re-education camp on the outskirts of Urumqi. I like to think one of them was reassured by how often the characters on the show eat Chinese takeout. I like to think there’s a Chinese word for shenanigans. Regardless, the whole affair makes me very happy. The overlords of 1.3 billion people are afraid of our sitcom. Exactly what we were going for!”
Like his show, Lorre’s flippant remarks go for the easy laugh. The powers that be in China, as usual, set themselves up with the typical rhetoric. In an editorial published after the directive to take down the show was issued the People’s Daily addressed the backlash: “If you don’t have Internet order, how can you have Internet freedom?..Anyone enjoying and exercising their Internet rights and freedoms must not harm the public interest and cannot violate laws and regulations and public ethics.” The paper continued in another editorial:
“Speculation has been building out of ulterior motives or ignorance that the cases [TV show removal and Sina Weibo anti-porn crackdown] spell trouble for China’s flourishing Internet stars and might precede a ‘wider crackdown’ on Internet companies, the Internet economy, or even the use of the Internet itself.
The fact is that they are just standalone cases by which the Chinese authorities try to fill the ‘regulation vacuum’ concerning content for online broadcast…
Online video content regulation and anti-porn laws should be familiar to Internet users in most countries, especially in the West, where the most sophisticated and sound laws are in place to guard against misuse of the Internet and harms to public interests,especially minors…
It is as simple as this. Nothing more. All the other conspiracy theories are misleading, either to ordinary people or investors coveting China’s Internet economy which holds great business potentials.”
To date, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio Film and Television (国家新闻出版广电总局 / 國家新聞出版廣電總局) itself has not explained why the family-friendly The Big Bang Theory or the other three shows were “taken off the air” while other seemingly more destabilizing shows like House of Cards, Masters of Sex, and Game of Thrones were permitted to remain online. So far, there have been no comments from the producers of the other removed shows.
Despite the People’s Daily‘s public claim of taking the noble party road, the motives behind the removal of the TV shows are more self-serving. The Washington Post reported on the theory that state broadcaster CCTV planned to buy the show in part to have more direct control over one of the most popular foreign shows in China and to reinvigorate sagging state media outlets. “Great business potentials” indeed.
The idea of an authoritarian government trying to get into the comedy game by heavy-handed means is absurd. Can state media in China really win viewers over other producers? Also, with the Sina Weibo crackdown, is state media getting into the porn game?
Image: Andrew Shiue via Star Wars Font Generator