Posted by Joel Martinsen on Thursday, March 8, 2007 at 1:07 AM
Rainbow Cat and Blue Rabbit
China's entertainment media was abuzz last week with the news that CCTV's children's channel had halted its broadcast at episode 89 of the Rainbow Cat and Blue Rabbit (虹猫蓝兔七侠传) cartoon series. Rumors said that the show was pulled by the authorities for its gratuitous violence and suggestive language - a CCTV staffer disclosed to a reporter that "higher-ups" had called for the halt.
The show is a martial-arts cartoon - a sort of Seven Swords for kids. In the first episode (shown below), we are treated to a delightful music video of frolicking woodland creatures before the backstory is dropped in our laps - half a century ago, seven swordsmen defeated the evil Tiger, head of the Demon sect. Tiger has returned in search of the Jade Qilin, who preserves harmony when alive but apparently offers immense power to anyone who drinks his blood. Rainbow, the child of one of the original swordsmen, leaves with the Qilin on a quest to find the bearers of the other six swords. Then, in the second half of the episode, all hell breaks loose:
The show's been controversial for a while, actually. In January, a parent complained that her son wanted to cut his wrists in imitation of Blue Rabbit's self-sacrifice in one episode. Then, in early February, someone writing under the name of "Old Egg" posted to several online forums a call for CCTV to pull the plug on the program.
The author of the post (real name: Liu Shuhong), blasted the show for being derivative of domestic wuxia novels and foreign cartoons, and for being "vulgar, violent, suggestive, filthy, frightening, and threatening." The discussion of violence and wuxia elements led to calls for a ratings system for domestic cartoons, similar to what Japan has. A common criticism of Rainbow Cat and Blue Rabbit was that it fused adult wuxia themes and language together with the cute characters that typify kids' programming, resulting in a strange beast that no one could appreciate.
Or at least that's what adults argued online. An op-ed in Yangcheng Evening News wondered whether kids were being used as pawns in the culture wars:
Ultimately, CCTV said that it would resume broadcasts at a date to be determined. The show was not cancelled, it said; this was merely a "normal programming adjustment." Wang Hong, head director on the series, explained:
Besides, as scriptwriter He Mengfan pointed out, wuxia violence is certainly not absent from classic animated features like Monkey Creates Havoc in Heaven or The Precious Lotus Lamp. At any rate, CCTV has since stated that it will resume broadcasts at some time yet to be determined. The show is still being aired on other stations throughout the country (a total of 800 stations including Beijing's BTV-10), so CCTV is probably on the level this time. The fact that the show has reportedly generated 30 million yuan for the station and the producers probably made the decision a bit easier, though.
The commercialization of the series has many people feeling uncomfortable - the show is a marketing tie-in juggernaut. Besides the box-sets of VCDs, there are games, books (including a series of English-Chinese dictionaries), clothes, toys, and school equipment. A number of news articles report that a conservative estimate puts sales of the tie-in book series at 15 million sets. And if you watch to the end of the episode above, you'll see an ad for a branded nutritional supplement that'll make kids better students.
Finally, a report on the controversy in this week's Complete Entertainment is a wonderfully entertaining piece of tabloid journalism.
· Suggestions of hidden motives:
· Unsubstantiated criticism:
· Hysterical comments from a random individual:
The CE article (from the 17 March, 2007, issue) is, unfortunately, not yet online.
Links and Sources
Jobs in China
Henry on The Eurasian Face
Caroline W on Big in China
Michael on Julia Lovell on translating Lu Xun's complete fiction: "His is an angry, searing vision of China"
Brandon K. on Clueless academic takes on popular fantasy novels
China Media Timeline
Major media events over the last three decades
Danwei Model Workers
The latest recommended blogs and new media
Books on China
The Eurasian Face : Blacksmith Books, a publishing house in Hong Kong, is behind The Eurasian Face, a collection of photographs by Kirsteen Zimmern. Below is an excerpt from the series:
Big in China: An adapted excerpt from Big In China: My Unlikely Adventures Raising A Family, Playing The Blues and Becoming A Star in China, just published this month. Author Alan Paul tells the story of arriving in Beijing as a trailing spouse, starting a blues band, raising kids and trying to make sense of China.
Pallavi Aiyar's Chinese Whiskers: Pallavi Aiyar's first novel, Chinese Whiskers, a modern fable set in contemporary Beijing, will be published in January 2011. Aiyar currently lives in Brussels where she writes about Europe for the Business Standard. Below she gives permissions for an excerpt.
Front Page of the Day
A different newspaper every weekday
From the Vault
Classic Danwei posts
+ Korean history doesn't fly on Chinese TV screens (2007.09): SARFT puts the kibbosh on Korean historical dramas.
+ Religion and government in an uneasy mix (2008.03): Phoenix Weekly (凤凰周刊) article from October, 2007, on government influence on religious practice in Tibet.
+ David Moser on Mao impersonators (2004.10): I first became aware of this phenomenon in 1992 when I turned on a Beijing TV variety show and was jolted by the sight of "Mao Zedong" and "Zhou Enlai" playing a game of ping pong. They both gave short, rousing speeches, and then were reverently interviewed by the emcee, who thanked them profusely for taking time off from their governmental duties to appear on the show.