Time Travel Is Banned In Chinese Movies

“If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.” —Noam Chomsky

In A Nutshell

In 2011, the Chinese government passed guidelines that would largely prohibit any time travel plot devices in television and movies. According to the State Administration of Radio Film and Television, time travel represents “ambiguous values” and “lack of active ideological significance.”

The Whole Bushel

In March 2011, the Chinese government’s State Administration of Radio Film and Television issued a new set of guidelines, which strongly disapproved of “fantasy, time-travel, random compilations of mythical stories, bizarre plots, absurd techniques, even propagating feudal superstitions, fatalism and reincarnation, ambiguous moral lessons, and a lack of positive thinking.”

The romance of traveling back in time has resonated with Chinese audiences, with such shows as Palace, about a woman who goes back to the Forbidden City during the Qing Dynasty and falls in love with a succession of royalty. While it is difficult to imagine how shows like Palace might threaten any societal discord, China has a great deal of recent history that it would much rather its citizens forget, rather than dream of altering. The Great Leap Forward for example, which occurred between 1958 and 1962, and cost the lives of an estimated 45 million citizens, mostly by starvation.

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One of the most oppressive governments in the world, China releases only a small handful of Western films each year. However, given their enormous population and emerging middle class, it is to every filmmaker’s financial advantage to play ball. In 2012, the American Bruce Willis film Looper went on to massive success in China despite relying heavily on time travel. Unlike most films, Looper features characters from the future traveling to the present, and features no affects or criticisms of Chinese culture, which may have been why it was approved for release in that country. However, a seemingly innocent film like Back to the Future, which featured a trip into the past (and the main character consorting with his mother), would likely be frowned upon as it alters destiny.

Show Me The Proof

Making TV Safer: Chinese Censors Crack Down on Time Travel
Did China’s ban on time travel make Looper a bigger hit there?