Cleavage display stirs censorship debate

Source:Global Times Published: 2015-1-7 0:38:01

Heated discussion has been sparked online after popular TV drama The Empress of China, a program about Wu Zetian, the only female emperor in Chinese history, was taken off the air temporarily. When it returned, some scenes had been cropped so as not to draw so much attention to the female characters. This has enraged some TV fans.

There has been no official response to this editing. Sources said it was because too much of the actresses' cleavage was revealed. Some people argued that this is how women in the Tang Dynasty (618-907) when Wu lived dressed and the post-production changes showed no respect for history.

But some thought that showing too much cleavage would have a negative influence on younger audiences since there is no rating system in China. Critics who apparently are discontent with China's censorship took the opportunity to voice long-held grievances.

Editing dramas is not unusual among the large number of films and TV series aired in China every year. But when the incident is taken by netizens as a symbol, it reveals a series of fundamental differences. Since the show was pulled off the air and re-edited after it was first broadcast with approval, it has highlighted an apparent glitch in procedures which has caused complications to the  reviewing system.

It's unrealistic to abandon censorship systems, which may cause chaos in the market. But the rules and practices in reviewing films and shows have been often questioned and have little public support.

The latest incident was largely done out of moral concerns, but was politicized by many, which sensationalized the issue.

On the other side, the sensation may do some good since it can prompt relevant parties to reflect and have more practical knowledge of what happens from the start of a drama to its being aired.

The reality is that censorship exists in many countries and it is unlikely to be reversed in China. While it is powerful, censorship lacks authority. In this sense, when using censorship, more considerations should be given to public opinion to garner support and avoid similar incidents.

The public holds various attitudes toward scenes where flesh is exposed on screen. Without a rating system in place, perhaps directors should have such a system in their minds. Programs which are broadcast on public TV stations should set a higher bar; meanwhile, those shown on the Internet can have a more relaxed standard.

Controversy surrounding this TV series reflects the confused mindset of the Chinese public in a time of transition. Perhaps we will encounter more such incidents later. Three decades ago, scenes of hugging and kissing were banned in China-made films. We might see TV series with much more nudity in the future. History is full of changes. Those who are leading the trends should have vision and wisdom.

We hope images that truthfully reflect Tang Dynasty lifestyle can be seen at a proper time on a major channel and also there will be less controversy around China's movie reviewing system. The two sides can together create cultural prosperity in China.

Posted in: Editorial

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