Partly thanks to the popularity of the drama The Legend of Zhen Huan (甄嬛传), China’s cultural authorities have limited the number of historical dramas on TV to 10% for next year, according to Washington Post and the Associated Press. Other cited reasons for this new restriction is that mainland authorities fear young viewers would get distorted ethics from the series, as well as themes of power transition hitting too close to home.
Based on the novel Zhen Huan by Liu Lianzi, the main protagonist Zhen Huan is a concubine of the emperor who finds herself in the treacherous world of court life where jealous rivals and power mongers are willing to poison and even kill if necessary to be in the favored position or otherwise gain power. Aside from beautiful scenery, lavish costumes, and lessons in court etiquette and classical poetry, fans are also being drawn to this show due to the cutthroat politics being played that apparently remind many women in China and Taiwan of their workplace office politics.
What I find particularly amusing about this whole situation is that there are “cultural authorities” in China. What is that (aside from being a censorship and propaganda machine that is)? Do we even have an equivalent to that here in the U.S.? State restrictions on “culture”? I’m just imagining a committee of culture in Congress sending an order to Hollywood: “Only 10% of TV shows are allowed to be Science Fiction this year.” I think any American will agree with me in saying that that sounds absolutely, positively ridiculous. Hollywood would laugh at the order, and so would the rest of the country, and it would be the center of hearty guffaws on SNL, Daily Show, and Colbert Report. Heck, even Fox News would join in. So, is this really the way media content works in China? Unbelievable.