Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Trying to Regulate Humour

The "river crab" flag
Chinese Communist Party leaders don't see the humour in being funny.

They don't seem to appreciate wit and sarcasm, especially when it's about the Communist Party of China's policies.

Thanks to the Chinese language, there are many ways to play on words. For example, the word "harmony" or 和睦 (he2mu4) can also sound like "river crabs", 河蟹 or (he2xie4), which is how people like to make fun of President Hu Jintao's slogan of creating a "harmonious society".

Senior officials are so annoyed with the creative homonyms -- isn't it a kind of linguistic innovation? -- that they have decided to launch a campaign against the "three vulgarities" or 三俗 (san1su2). The "three vulgarities" are vulgar, cheap and tasteless content.

As of early August, the government has started cracking down on entertainment, particularly on television that have some of these "vulgarities".  

Officials are annoyed that commercialism and consumerism are dominating China's cultural industries when the government thinks they should be promoting the legitimacy of communist rule, socialist values and traditional Chinese virtue.

However, most state-run TV channels are trying to pursue profits as they were directed to wean themselves off state coffers, and what sells? Outrageous comments for one, baring a bit of flesh is another.  

Most recently shows about dating were criticized by officials after some women on the programs said they would only marry super rich men, which created a buzz around water coolers and even academics weighed in on the declining morality of society.
 But now that the TV stations have been told to tone down, the shows have become, well, boring. 

Doesn't the government realize it's 2010 and not 1910? People today have more choices than ever for entertainment. There are so many more television channels, and exponentially more shows on the internet. People will do whatever it takes to find whatever entertainment they want.

The "three vulgarities" campaign sounds like a sad attempt at trying to corral the people into "healthy" entertainment which will lead to even more resentment against the leadership. And whether the officials like it or not, people will continue to make fun of the government's policies even if the authorities try to clamp down.

That's been going on ever since governments were established.

1 comment:

  1. sometimes self discipline and self censorship of the media is needed in order to have a more moralistic society. there is a little too much freedom in the western press i feel. and this practice has influenced the newly acquired freedom of the press in china. the lack of respect to authority can lead to anarchy. disrespect to the flag can be sentenced to a jail term even in the free democracy of the u.s.a.