kaigou: Edward, losing it. (1 Edward conniption)
[personal profile] kaigou
So the word is that Gaiman is adapting Journey to the West. Now, I will give the man props for doing a beautiful treatment for the subtitles of Spirited Away that really kept the poetry and meaning of the original, and I'll set aside for now the issue of Cameron's involvement, which I do consider so many kinds of wrong I don't even know where to begin.

It's this bit in the linked article that's got me coming back, and twigging again each time:
Additional pressure may come from the Chinese government itself, which has been known to censor creative works. Speaking to that, Gaiman said, “Monkey is irrepressible. The moment that you try to censor Monkey, he’s not Monkey anymore.”

First of all, I'm dubious as to what the Chinese government would censor in terms of Monkey. I mean, haven't there already been like sixty-something various treatments of Journey to the West already, just in China -- radio, television, movies, books, comics, and so on? It's not like we're talking about current events here.

Second, if the Chinese government were to insist on changes (because to film, you must submit a script for review), is that automatically censorship?

I've been trying to think of a Western tradition/story that's as well-known and loved as Monkey. Hmm, maybe Robin Hood (because here I'd say the Arthurian Legends are a little too, uhm, formal -- in the sense that Robin Hood's semi-satirical characters, like Friar Tuck, are impertinent in the same way that one might see Sanzo's party as mildly impertinent). What happens if I consider the shoes on the other feet?

Let's say someone in China decides to do a film adaptation of Robin Hood and the British government were to insist on an approval process to, say, film at certain locations. And let's say there's something in the script that contradicts the understanding of the British review board when it comes to their own legends. Like, I don't know, the idea that Robin Hood kept a lot of the loot for himself. Or that he was abusive towards Maid Marian. Or that Friar Tuck was a double agent. I think if I were on that review board, I'd express my dissatisfaction with the script. If I had the power, I might even say, "you're filming something, but it's not the story of Robin Hood. Go ahead and film it, but I'm not putting my stamp of approval -- or permission to use historical locations -- on your not-our-Robin-Hood story."

I don't consider that censorship. I consider that a natural human self-interest when it comes to stories we consider "ours". If Robin Hood is a story I "own" in some sense due to family background and language and other socio-cultural factors, then I'm going to have -- whether or not I realize it, most of the time -- some kind of cultural possessiveness about it. It'd take someone doing Robin Hood really really wrong (and I won't mention the times that's happened), but that's when I'd stop and say, hey, that's not Robin Hood. It could be a good story, but it's not the Robin Hood.

As much as the West sometimes likes to paint China with the broad brush of a totalitarian system, it's still a system comprised of humans... and we're talking about a story that probably every single one of those humans (in any government review board) probably grew up with. I would expect each of them to feel, whether or not they've ever been made consciously aware of it, somewhat protective of Monkey.

I guess that's what's got me twigging -- the sense of entitlement and arrogance in saying that any assertion by a Chinese government board is (implied automatically) censorship. I can't believe someone who didn't grow up hearing stories of Monkey all over the place could possibly ascertain what is, or is not, Monkey... better than those for whom Monkey is a continuing, constantly-entertaining, story-force. Or maybe I should say: I have a bubbling sense of disgust for the implied argument that if someone -- whose culture effectively 'owns' a large chunk of the legend -- corrects for doing it wrong that this is immediately the error of the correcting culture.

Actually, the other analogy that popped into my head when I first read that short article was of drinking alcohol. If in my home country, drinking wine comes with loud cheers and extra rounds and raised voices, let's say then I travel to the country where that wine was originally made. If that country is one where wine is drunk with reverence and only at solemn occasions, but I'm in the back whooping it up -- if I get shunned, or even thrown out, can I really claim that wine-drinking is irrepressible, and that attempts to make me adjust my behavior to what's considered proper were a sign of a totalitarian system that wanted to censor me?

There's a phrase for that -- gaijin smash -- though I guess in this case it'd be weiguoren smash.

ETA: I think maybe what's bugging me is the hidden antagonism in the proclamation. I mean, try inserting some other government/country/culture, and it feels more blatant. Does it seem acceptable to [the speaker] to state such assertions because the government in question is presumed to be hostile?
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kaigou: this is what I do, darling (Default)
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"When you make the finding yourself— even if you're the last person on Earth to see the light— you'll never forget it." —Carl Sagan

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