In Other News — TV, Tiananmen and Treason
The South China Morning Post tells us that after a particularly controversial episode featuring Homer and the rest of the family (except, inexplicably, Maggie) in China, “The Simpsons” suddenly found itself banned in that country.
It was to be expected: the show’s 2005 episode “Goo Goo Gai Pan” took a few well-aimed swipes at China, its history and its culture — including a not-so-veiled reference to the 1989 events in Tiananmen Square, Beijing.
Unsurprisingly, the ruling Communist Party took offense, and so “The Simpsons” stayed off Chinese TV screens until 2014.
How things change: not so long ago China Daily spoke with Jeffrey Godsick, president of 20th Century Fox Consumer Products and learned that the world’s first Simpsons store is going to open in March — in Beijing.
The world’s second Simpsons store is going to open in Shanghai this June.
This in stark contrast to nearby South Korea’s DailyNK story of fifteen North Korean teenagers put on public trial for watching American films and branded “traitors tainted by non-socialist ideology”. Their fate is still unknown, but last year three people were actually shot for watching TV shows smuggled across the border from South Korea.
Watching South Korean programs is defined as “treason”, as opposed to “committing a hostile act” which could mean absolutely anything, as those hoping for the release of a 21-year-old University of Virginia economics student have discovered.
Otto Frederick Warmbier was prevented from boarding his early-morning flight back to China on January 2nd. According to Time, he was being denounced by North Korean state broadcaster KCNA as aiming to destroy the country’s unity while being “manipulated by the US government” as the rest of his tour group flew home, presumably seriously hungover after allegedly drinking vodka and having fun until four or five that morning.
And even though North Korea has since announced its H-Bomb capability to the world and — according to The Times of India — its much more useful development of the world’s first hangover-free alcohol, they’re still tight-lipped as to why they’re holding Warmbier.
It’s possible that in this case it’s more of a diversionary tactic, to get the world’s press talking more about the plight of a single, apparently innocent individual rather than sanctions and other economic actions taken against the country.
In short, a case of “political hostage-taking”, as in grabbing any American they can find to use as a bargaining chip.
On the whole, we’re told, foreign nationals imprisoned in North Korea are quite well-treated. But would Otto be allowed to watch the Simpsons? That’s doubtful.