This talk presents part of Ng How Wee’s research on the discourse of television censorship in postsocialist China. Under Deng Xiaoping’s post-Cultural Revolution regime, private leisure was widely encouraged and endorsed as a new way of life. Watching television dramas became an increasingly popular means of leisure. Following the normalisation of Sino-American diplomatic ties, the first two American drama serials, The Man from Atlantis (1979) and Garrison’s Gorillas (1980), imported into China were enthusiastically received by Chinese viewers, but are glossed over in Chinese television studies.
Interestingly, the 26-episode Garrison’s Gorillas was suspended after 16 episodes, with no official explanation provided by China Central Television (CCTV). It was not until more than 20 years later, a book published by CCTV explained that the ban was due to the show “featuring senseless fighting with very little artistic value”. Focusing on this American drama as a case study, this talk will investigate the discourse of its censorship in the 1980s. Moving away from the notion of censorship as reductive, it looks at the articulations of viewers and cultural critics associated with the programme, arguing instead that censorship is inadvertently productive through its disciplinary effects. Instead of taking the concept of “audiences” as given, it investigates how the social category of “audiences” are produced through examining the supposed effects of Garrison’s Gorillas on society, situating the discourse of censorship in the culturally and historically specific notions of control in postsocialist China.
Ng How Wee is a senior teaching fellow in the Department of Languages and Cultures (China and Inner Asia), SOAS, University of London. His enthusiasm for Chinese studies can be traced to his college education in Beijing. While his key research looks at television and film censorship in contemporary China, his involvement in Singapore Chinese theatre has also helped to cultivate a keen academic interest in the latter. His Master’s thesis, Drama Box and the Social Theatre of Singapore: Cultural Intervention and Artistic Autonomy was published in 2011 and he is currently in the process of touching up his PhD dissertation.
Non-University of Westminster attendees please register with Dr Derek Hird, [email protected].