On October 2, Comedy Central broadcast an episode of “South Park” that took aim at the authoritarian policies of the Chinese government. Subsequently, Beijing responded by purging the popular adult animated series from its local internet. Now, an unknown party has screened “Band in China” on the streets of Hong Kong.
Taking It to the Streets
On Wednesday, The Hollywood Reporter noted the Sino government-mocking episode of “South Park” screened in the streets of Hong Kong’s Sham Shui Po district. Though unannounced, the showing drew a crowd, and “Band in China” became a discussion point on local web forums.
The publication stated users sympathetic to the protests called “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone “prophets.” Residents also praised the duo for having a “strong backbone” compared to other Western pop-culture luminaries.
Indeed, Blizzard is facing widespread criticism for punishing a competitive gamer for expressing his support for the Hong Kong protests.
No person or group has claimed responsibility for the surprise screening. The Hollywood Reporter stated regional activists hide their identities to evade arrest by the Hong Kong police.
According to journalist Kong Tsung-gan, street cinema has been a facet of the city’s ongoing protest movement. In the past, Hong Kong activists have screened the 2015 documentary “Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom.” The film chronicles the anti-government protests that took place in the Eastern European nation in 2013 and 2014.
Tonight in Sham Shui Po, @SouthPark episode ‘Band in China’ shown on street to large & appreciative audience. Street cinema’s been yet another important facet of #HK protests, w ‘Winter on Fire’ on Ukraine’s revolution & ‘1987: When the Day Comes’ on Korea’s esp popular. pic.twitter.com/dKzWYXP1xd
— Kong Tsung-gan / 江松澗 (@KongTsungGan) October 8, 2019
Similarly, protesters have produced street cinema showings of the 2017 movie “1987: When the Day Comes.” The thriller details the democratic uprising that occurred in South Korea more than 30 years ago.
Improbably, it seems “South Park,” which features a sentient marijuana loving towel as a recurring character, has become revolutionary art.
As opposed to organizations like the National Basketball Association (NBA) and Apple, Comedy Central, and by extension, its parent company Viacom, apparently have no problem roiling Chinese authorities. As such, it’ll be interesting to see if Beijing chooses to retaliate against the media conglomerate in the future.
For instance, Viacom’s Paramount Pictures subsidiary allegedly changed aspects of the forthcoming film “Top Gun: Maverick” in deference to Chinese censors. In the first “Top Gun,” Tom Cruise’s fighter pilot wears a leather jacket that features Taiwanese and Japanese flags. But in the sequel’s trailer, those two flags are conspicuously absent.
For years now, Hollywood studios have edited supposedly offensive content out of their films to appease the Chinese government. As an example, Paramount edited a Shanghai-set scene from 2006’s “Mission: Impossible III” because it irked Sino officials. In that case, the censors felt showing laundry hanging out to dry on local buildings made the country look bad.
More recently, Chinese tech conglomerate Tencent suspended live streams of all NBA preseason games. The firm took action because of pro-Hong Kong comments made by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey. Notably, the corporation spent $1.5 billion to secure the rights to broadcast the league’s content for five years.
Furthermore, Tencent Films co-produced “Top Gun: Maverick” and Paramount’s November release, “Terminator: Dark Fate.” As such, the corporation may scuttle the releases of those two films in retaliation for “Band in China.”
For their part, “South Park’s” creators and its network aren’t worried about ruffling any feathers. On Wednesday, Comedy Central aired a new episode of the show wherein a character repeatedly proclaims “F— the Chinese government.”