Why China has a habit of censoring Winnie the Pooh: NPR
A bloody micro-budget slasher film – in which beloved children’s book character Winnie the Pooh is a murderous psychopath – has been suddenly pulled from theaters in Hong Kong and Macau.
While the plot may not be everyone’s cup of tea, there are fears the decision to up the UK film has less to do with the film’s gory nature and more to do with the removal. of civil liberties by Beijing. in Hong Kong and more specifically, the government’s efforts to block an unlikely symbol of protest: the bear in a cropped top and no pants.
“Winnie the Pooh has become a symbol for dissidents in China,” says Rongbin Han, associate professor of international affairs at the University of Georgia. “So now the character alludes to Xi Jinping himself and the president doesn’t like it.”
Pulled without explanation from Hong Kong and Macau
Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey, written and directed by British filmmaker Rhys Frake-Waterfield, became an internet sensation, exceeding all expectations with releases in Latin America and Asia. It was due to start screening in more than 30 cinemas in Hong Kong and Macao on Thursday, but the distributor said all screenings have been cancelled.
Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey will be canceled in Hong Kong and Macau, VII Pillars Entertainment said in a statement on Facebook.
The company added that the film “failed to meet the public” and asked for forgiveness from the public. They offered no further explanation, and company officials did not respond to questions from NPR.
How Winnie the Pooh Became a Subversive Symbol
Last-minute withdrawal from theaters marks the second time the release of a film based on Winnie the Pooh has been blocked in China. But why?
The connection between Chinese leader Xi and Pooh dates back to 2013, when people on social media compared a photo of Xi and former President Barack Obama walking side by side to an image of Pooh and Tigger. The meme took off, and for several years government critics appropriated the character to mock Xi or castigate his policies.
This prompted Beijing to censor the Chinese name of Winnie the Pooh and the chubby and somewhat silly bear animated gifs on social media platforms in 2017.
Han of the University of Georgia explained that it is not Pooh that is wrong with Xi and the authoritarian regime, but the fact that critics are using the bear as a surrogate to speak out against government policies.
That’s why, he says, “the censorship machine” is constantly on the lookout for perceived criticism, which often takes the form of seemingly benign images, coded puns, or no words at all. For example, in November, in a rare public protest, Chinese dissidents marched through the streets holding up blank sheets of paper, sending a silent message of defiance to the authorities.
Han noted that Pooh-like images or items are still allowed in China, but online is a different story. “Wherever online dissident groups mobilize, that’s what triggers the nerve of this state,” he said.
Considering the character’s backstory, Han said he was surprised the film got past the Chinese government’s censorship system in the first place. Both domestic and foreign films are all subject to a strict system of pre-publication review, and the government reserves the right to ban any non-compliant film from being shown in theaters – or even released in line. — in the country.
Other challenges included the quota on foreign films
Michael Berry, director of the Center for Chinese Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, told NPR that a movie like Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey would face a number of hurdles regardless of the Xi connection.
“First of all, there is a quota system in China that strictly limits the number of foreign films distributed; because of this quota, most studios submit big blockbuster films like Marvel and DC superhero movies or big-budget war movies. Small movies often have a hard time getting into the market,” Berry said.
The UCLA professor also noted that China generally doesn’t welcome horror movies because the country doesn’t have a rating system. The idea is that all films should technically be suitable for the general public. “It poses inherent challenges to the horror genre,” he said.
For now, audiences in Hong Kong and Macau will have to wait for the chance to watch a bloodthirsty Winne the Pooh.
But as one potential fan pointed out, it might be coming to a streaming service near you.