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Home Uncategorized Netflix blockbuster ‘3 Body Problem’ divides opinion and sparks nationalist anger in China

Netflix blockbuster ‘3 Body Problem’ divides opinion and sparks nationalist anger in China

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Originally Published: 22 MAR 24 06:24 ET

By Nectar Gan, CNN

(CNN) — A Netflix adaptation of wildly popular Chinese sci-fi novel “The Three-Body Problem has split opinions in China and sparked online nationalist anger over scenes depicting a violent and tumultuous period in the country’s modern history.

Reactions have been mixed on Chinese social media since the Thursday premiere of the eight-part, English-language series “3 Body Problem,” which is based on the Hugo Award-winning novel by Liu Cixin, the country’s most celebrated sci-fi author.

Netflix is not available in China, but viewers can watch its content using virtual private networks (VPNs) to bypass strict geo-restrictions — or by consuming pirated versions.

Liu’s novel, part of a trilogy, is one of China’s most successful cultural exports in recent years, boasting legions of fans worldwide including former US President Barack Obama.

Among the country’s more patriotic internet users, discussions on the adaptation turned political, with some accusing the big-budget American production of making China look bad.

The show opens with a harrowing scene depicting Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution, which consumed China in bloodshed and chaos for a decade from 1966. On the campus of the prestigious Tsinghua University in Beijing, a physics professor is brutally beaten to death on stage by his own students and denounced by his colleague and wife, while his daughter Ye Wenjie (played by Zine Tseng) watches in horror.

Such “struggle sessions” were a frequent occurrence during the decade-long period of upheaval, where “class enemies” were publicly humiliated, beaten and tortured by Mao’s frenzied Red Guards.

But some online commentators accused the show’s producers of “making a whole of tray of dumplings just for a bit of vinegar sauce,” a popular saying used to describe an ulterior motive — in this case, they argued, making a whole TV series just to paint China in a bad light.

“Netflix you don’t understand ‘The Three Body Problem’ or Ye Wenjie at all!” read a comment on social media platform Weibo. “You only understand political correctness!”

Others came to the show’s defense, saying the scene closely follows depictions in the book — and is a truthful reenactment of history.

“History is far more absurd than a TV series, but you guys pretend not to see it,” read one comment on Douban, a popular site for reviewing movies, books and music.

Author Liu said in an interview with the New York Times in 2019 that he had originally wanted to open the book with scenes from Mao’s Cultural Revolution, but his Chinese publisher worried they would never make it past government censors and buried them in the middle of the narrative.

The English version of the book, translated by Ken Liu, put the scenes at the novel’s beginning, with the author’s blessing.

Ye Wenjie’s disillusionment with the Cultural Revolution later proves pivotal in the sci-fi thriller’s plot, which jumps between the past and present day.

“3 Body Problem” was adapted for Netflix by “Game of Thrones” co-creators, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, and the American producer Alexander Woo.

Various other aspects of the show, from its casting and visual effects to the radical changes to the story’s original setting and characters, also attracted the ire of Chinese social media users. Many compared it to a Chinese television adaptation released last year — a much lengthier and closer retelling of the book that ran to 30 episodes and was highly rated on Chinese review platforms.

The Netflix adaptation featured an international cast and placed much of the action in present-day London — thus making the story a lot less Chinese.

Some Chinese viewers criticized the alteration, saying it construed a plot line that glorifies the West for saving humanity from a disaster planted by China decades ago.

But not everyone was picking sides.

“Why do some people always need to make an enemy out of a cultural product?” a user said on Weibo. “Our version can be good, theirs can also be excellent. Why do we always have to fight about it?”

™ & © 2024 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.


An opening scene of Netflix’s “3 Body Problem” depicts a Maoist struggle session during China’s Cultural Revolution.

Netflix via CNN Newsource

22 Mar 24

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