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Putting a stop to historical re-enactment

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Are you frustrated by the flood of low-quality palace soaps on television today? Does it make your blood boil when the characters you see in historical dramas are nowhere to be found in the history books? Can you feel your moral universe being chipped away by emperors and statesmen who act like they've just stepped out of a 90s-era nightclub? Does Wang Gang playing the role of the svelte, young Heshen just piss you off?

The State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television has heard your cries, and has answered. Following its widely acclaimed efforts last month to put a halt to the plague of live-action cartoons that were causing so much trouble for the development of the country's animation industry, the SARFT will be placing restrictions on the number of costume dramas that can be broadcast this year.

Wang Weiping, deputy director of SARFT's TV Drama Department, said at a planning conference that historical dramas on TV have serious problems with their historicity. Wang said that many adaptations have taken too great of liberties with their historical source material:

For example, historical figures or events with which everyone is familiar get adapted with too much fictionalization or too much mockery. Some adaptations completely distort history.

Of course, an artistic creation is not the same as a history textbook, and it is not really the history that occured. But during the process of commercialization, some adaptations of historical dramas have strayed very far from the truth of history. As a result, history is easily muddled; it provides young people especially with a very bad influence. Some other historical dramas have problems in the way they treat emperors, kings, generals, and ministers; they deviate to a degree in how they handle their position in history. Some parts of history are altered to be completely false, and are rendered very crassly. These must all be corrected.

Director Wang said that the administration would be increasing the proportion of dramas closer to reality - like last year's "Caught the Wrong Bus" (搭错车), a remake of a 1983 Taiwan tear-jerker, and "Nine Daughters in my Family" (家有九凤), a story everyone can relate to. Wang also spoke favorably of anti-Japanese themed war dramas. SARFT will also limit imported TV series, though Wang says that this is merely a consequence of the emphasis on war and real life.

The administration worked hard last year. The Beijing News summarizes the regulations: April 2005: Online gaming programs banned from TV; violent programs restricted from prime time; children's network set up; loose adaptation of "Red Classics" prohibited. May 2005: Vulgar content in costume dramas and teen idol soaps banned during prime time; TV hosts prohibited from using Hong Kong and Taiwan accents.

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