Thursday, April 14, 2011

May the Force be Withheld

The Chinese government has placed a ban on television programming portraying time travel (think of shows like "Dr. Who" and "Star Trek"), saying that going back in time to alter events is against the Chinese spirit. Its State Administration of Radio Film and Television has singled out shows portraying time travel, but the language used could extend to other science fiction staples as well. Which makes us wonder, how will China inspire its young scientists?


Here's a horrible Google translation of one paragraph from the original Chinese guidelines published on March 31:
In recent months, the national report prepared by the general trend is good repertoire, but we also found signs of some incorrect creation: individual declaration of the record through the supernatural drama and drama, random compilation of myths, bizarre plots, bizarre, absurd way, and even rendering of feudal superstition, fatalism and reincarnation, value orientation ambiguity, the lack of significance of positive thinking. In this regard, I hope the correct creative idea production organizations, to carry forward the fine traditional Chinese culture, efforts to improve the ideological and artistic quality drama.

CNN translated it a little better, saying the Chinese are banning "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." It's unclear whether this is in response to one show or what triggered the ban in the first place.

Though most reports focus on forbidding the portrayal of time travel, the wording up top leaves us to wonder how much, if any, science fiction can be portrayed. I don't think anyone can argue with me when I say the Star Wars series included most of the banned material above, particularly "random compilations of mythical stories."

Does that mean no Spike marathons of the Star Wars trilogies in China?

If so, how will young Chinese children be inspired about science? You could argue that many youngsters get interested in science through science fiction. Bill Nye the Science Guy is great, but he's no Obi Wan.

In the same breath that they discourage portrayal of the material above - discourage the portrayal of time travel and altering past events - the state also encouraged creating works that paint a true picture of the Chinese revolution and establishment of the ruling communist party. Truth, though, has long been acknowledged to be open to interpretation to the Chinese:
In accordance with the central spirit, to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the establishment of the Chinese Communist Party at all levels should actively preparing for the TV, to introduce a number of vivid reproduction of the Chinese revolution, construction and reform and opening up historical picture, a true reflection of the party under the leadership of people of all the great rejuvenation of struggle to achieve national good works, for the 90th anniversary of founding gift.
Ultimately, we can only hope that youngsters across the globe will be free to use their imaginations and be inspired to dream up the inventions and ideas of the future. If science fiction helps to create the next Albert Einstein, is that really such a bad thing?

Furthermore, why would China toy with potentially hindering interest in science when it is on track to overtake the U.S. in science output very soon?

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