[World News★★]The Simpsons Go to China [modified]
(P1) Later this fall, “The Simpsons” will begin streaming in China, as part of a new multi-year deal between Fox and Sohu, a minor colossus in the competitive world of Chinese Web portals. While more popular sites like Baidu and Sina have won over young users by investing in gaming and social networking, Sohu, an early pioneer on the Chinese Internet, has turned to streaming video. Partnerships with Hollywood have proved to be an effective, though scattershot, way of attracting traffic: if you license four hundred movies and TV series at once, and dump them behind a very modest paywall, some are bound to find an audience. Even a show as exotic to the typical Chinese teen-ager as “Gossip Girl” can be assured tens of thousands of devoted viewers.
(P2) Much has changed in the past nine years. “The Simpsons” now fits neatly alongside other faintly provocative programs, like “Modern Family” and “Saturday Night Live,” that are available through Sohu. If there was something threatening about the incursion of Western cultural and political influence ten years ago, the China of today seems a bit more confident about its standing in the world.
(P3) But there’s also another force at work here. America’s culture industry has never been so beholden to the rest of the world. Hollywood blockbusters like last summer’s “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” for example, have become meticulously engineered attempts to simultaneously court audiences from Peoria to Shenzhen. America once projected its democratic ethos abroad via cowboy flicks, jazz music, and edgy painting. Now cultural diplomacy gets subsumed within hat-in-hand corporate interests; before you know it, the Dinobots turn out to be Chinese. America will continue to be the world’s image factory, but this is an era of codependency.
(P4) Will Chinese audiences—not exactly the most ironic bunch on Earth—take to the churlish sarcasm of “The Simpsons”? Satire responds to the realization that we’ve been sold a bill of goods—that the choices we’re offered are illusory and all ultimately the same. It is a weapon of the weak, a way of critiquing the world by stepping outside of it. There’s a growing space for this kind of protest, as China’s fiercest Internet activists have become masters of censor-dodging puns and the authors of complex, ironic allegories for authoritarianism and surveillance. But, for most in China, the novelty of consumer choice has yet to wear off. After all, when “The Simpsons” débuted in the United States, in December, 1989, China was deep into martial law after the Tiananmen uprisings. Now “The Simpsons” will have to compete with a Chinese Internet that grows denser and more entertaining by the day. Sohu’s homepage, conforming to the aesthetics of Chinese Web design, is a frenzied riot of information.
(P5) Of course, the global expansion of “The Simpsons” was learned from the series itself. Like all good satire, “The Simpsons” is, at its heart, deeply hopeful. American fans who grew up with the show internalized its punky disposition, its tender eviscerations of church and state, its overriding belief, stated in the words of Jebediah Springfield, that “a noble spirit embiggens the smallest man.”
(P6) But, ultimately, “The Simpsons” is just a television series, and television series—even ones as respected and as globally successful as “The Simpsons”—are always interested in new audiences. Any weirdness that attends the series’ drift across the Pacific is owed to our own nostalgia rather than to what the show actually sets out to do. After all, the Simpsons remain a family. Bart is demon-like, but he never truly breaks bad; Lisa dreams of more enlightened surroundings, yet never runs away. It will be fascinating to see what, if any, aspect of “The Simpsons” ’s complex philosophy takes root in China. Maybe it will be the part about questioning authority, or the pragmatism of making compromises. Whatever happens, one hopes it won’t involve the ethos of Mr. Burns.
To print: https://www.dropbox.com/s/u0ds0ld26nmg3s2/%5BW019b%5D%20The%20Simpsons%20Go%20To%20China.pdf?dl=0
Implications (And More…)
심슨이 아이들이 보는 만화라고 생각하시면 큰 오산이죠. 정치, 종교, 인종을 넘나들며 현대 사회를 풍자해 대학교에서 그 세계관을 연구하는 동아리가 있을 정로도 대중에게도 독보적인 브랜드 밸류를 갖고 있습니다. 오랜 기간동안 미디아 컨텐츠에 대해 검열이 심했던 중국이 심슨의 방영을 허락한 이번 사건은 중국 정부의 불가피한 처세이기도 하지만, 중국 진출은 앞으로 심슨의 제작에도 큰 영향을 미칠 것이라는 내용의 기사입니다. 심슨은 미국에서 가장 오랫동안 방영된 시트콤으로 2014년 9월에 시즌26이 시작되었는데요. 시즌 30쯤에는 바트가 중국 정치가에 대한 풍자를 하는 모습을 볼 수 있을지도 모르겠습니다.
If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor.
The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.
- Briefly summarize the content of the article in your own words.
- What was Chinese government’s stance on foreign television shows, and why did it change its stance? (P2)
- What does the author mean by “America’s culture industry has never been so beholden to the ret of the world” (P3)? (HINT: tie in concepts like “corporate interest replacing America ethos”, “era of codependency”)
- The author predicts that expansion of The Simpsons in China will also have influence in the philosophy of the television series as it faces more competition from local producers (P 4 & 6). Do you agree or disagree? What is your stance on localization of globally successful TV series?