The Chinese government deleted all traces of the Comedy Central show “South Park” from the Internet in China, after the show mocked Hollywood’s willingness to please the country’s authoritarian regime.
The most recent episode, aptly named “Band in China,” critiqued Hollywood studios that steer clear of producing any content that would offend the Chinese government, lest they face censorship. Of course, the Chinese predictably responded with more censorship, deleting all clips, episodes, and any discussion threads related to the show.
The Hollywood Reporter noted that searches across Chinese social media sites such as Weibo find zero mentions of the show, and previously available episodes and seasons on its streaming service Youku are now dead.
Part of the “Band in China” episode’s storyline includes an imprisoned Winnie the Pooh character, referencing the Chinese government’s aggressive censoring of the children’s book character after Internet users compared Chinese President Xi Jinping to the small bear.
In recent years, Hollywood studios have been accused of pressuring filmmakers to avoid negative portrayals of China in their movies. A trailer released in July for the “Top Gun” movie revealed that Tom Cruise’s character, Maverick, does not have the same original flag patches on his jacket. The jacket in the new film shows that the original film’s Japanese and Taiwanese flags commemorating a tour of the USS Galveston are now missing.
In 2012, China pressured Sony to cut scenes from the movie “Men in Black 3” that featured actor Will Smith and aliens disguising themselves as Chinese restaurant workers, who later wipe the memory of Chinese tourists.
The recent “South Park” episode critiques this same type of Hollywood’s bending of the knee when part of the plot follows Stan, Jimmy, Kenny, and Butters working with a manager who tells the kids to change their potential movie idea as not to include references to the Dalai Lama or Winnie the Pooh.
“You know what they say: You got to lower your ideals of freedom if you want to suck on the warm teet of China,” the manager says.
The media attention all comes on the heels of another controversy surrounding the NBA’s handling of Chinese relationships. On Sunday, Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted a now-deleted image that read “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.”
Reports swirled of Morey losing his job, while the NBA released a statement distancing itself from his comments and praising the Chinese government. The league also released different statements in English and Chinese. The NBA’s Chinese social media account included phrases that NBA spokesman Mike Bass never said, including “extremely disappointed,” “inappropriate,” and “severely hurt the feelings” of fans.
The best part of the South Park/China thing is they literally had James Harden in their China episode — days *before* he apologized to China for Daryl Morey's comments about Hong Kong protestors.
South Park really has the sharpest political commentary in comedy. pic.twitter.com/jrwCAmNIOy
— Matt Whitlock (@mattdizwhitlock) October 7, 2019
Of course, these kinds of retractions, made out of fear of losing money or Chinese markets, is exactly the kind of behavior South Park was satirizing.