Muse Reporting on the arts and culture

The wisdom of children

Entertainment | An irreverent cartoon stands up to China while U.S. corporations cower in fear
by Loren Skinker & Lynde Langdon
Posted 10/11/19, 02:26 pm

China has a longstanding tradition of demanding—and receiving—apologies from foreign businesses that offend the communist government. This week, the creators of the Comedy Central show South Park turned the tradition on its head while also skewering the NBA for bowing under Chinese pressure.

South Park’s “Band in China” episode, which aired Oct. 2, poked fun at the ethical problems surrounding American entities bending over backward to appease China’s authoritarian regime. That’s exactly what the NBA did in a public display of contrition after Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey tweeted support for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong on Oct. 4.

China responded to the South Park episode by banning the show and all related content from the country’s streaming platforms and internet. On Tuesday, South Park tweeted an “official” apology from creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone: “Like the NBA, we welcome the Chinese censors into our homes and our hearts. We too love money more than freedom and democracy. Xi doesn’t look just like Winnie the Pooh at all. Tune into our 300th episode this Wednesday at 10! Long live the great Communist Party of China. May the autumn’s sorghum harvest be bountiful. We good now China?”

Though a cartoon, South Park regularly features blasphemous, obscene, and explicit content. Yet somehow it has become one of the few voices in American entertainment willing to stand up for the victims of oppression in China. When China started pulling its support of the Houston Rockets after Morey’s tweet, the NBA issued a statement on Chinese social media saying it was “extremely disappointed in the inappropriate comment.” The “inappropriate comment” Morey had posted said, “Fight for freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.” The week of his post, authorities in Hong Kong subjected protesters to live rounds of gunfire and banned face masks that protected them from tear gas.

The NBA is the latest but not the first entertainment company to exchange the freedom of expression for access to the lucrative Chinese market. For Marvel Studios’ 2016 superhero film Doctor Strange, producers rewrote the role of a Tibetan monk into a Celtic sorcerer because of the tension between China and Tibet. In the 2015 film Pixels, Sony reportedly altered a scene originally intended to show aliens blasting a hole in the Great Wall of China to show the destruction of the Taj Mahal instead.

This spring, Apple Music removed several pro-democracy singers and a song by Hong Kong artist Jacky Cheung referencing the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown. On Wednesday, the tech giant pulled the app, used by Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters to flag the location of police, from its app store. On Tuesday, Blizzard, which makes the intensely popular video game World of Warcraft, banned a player from an e-sports competition for publicly supporting Hong Kong. Also this week, Google Play removed an app from its store that offered an interactive narrative about a pro-democracy protester in Hong Kong.

In South Park’s banned episode, an irate Mickey Mouse warns a room full of Disney and Marvel characters to cooperate with Chinese officials’ repressive rules on scriptwriting and acting. But the children of South Park, often the voice of simple reason, refuse to do the same as they make their own movie back home. The show’s Stan Marsh character, the 10-year-old leader of a gang of misfits, declares it’s not worth it: “Anybody who would betray their ideals just to make money in China isn’t worth a lick of spit.”

Epic Games Epic Games Characters from the game Fortnite

Fighting Fortnite

The parents of two Canadian children are seeking a court’s permission to sue the makers of Fortnite for intentionally building a video game they say is as addictive as cocaine. Lawyers in Quebec proposed the class action lawsuit last week on behalf of the families of the two boys, one age 10 and the other 15, USA Today reported.

“The defendants used the same tactics as the creators of slot machines, or variable reward programs, [to ensure] the dependence of its users,” the lawsuit claims. “Children are particularly vulnerable to this manipulation since their self-control system in the brain is not developed enough.”

In an interview earlier this year for Muse, Melissa Henson with the Parents Television Council described how Fortnite and other shooting games include short cycles of play and in-game rewards and incentives to keep players engaged “for hours on end.”

“The people that develop these games know which particular psychological triggers to pull,” she said.

Epic Games, the company that makes Fortnite, has 30 days to respond to the court filing. —L.L.

Associated Press/Photo by Ron Jenkins Associated Press/Photo by Ron Jenkins Ellen Degeneres at the Dallas Cowboys football game on Sunday

‘Be kind to everyone’

Critics of George W. Bush lashed out at talk show host Ellen Degeneres for sitting next to the former president in the owner’s box at Sunday’s Dallas Cowboys football game. LGBT advocates, in particular, derided Degeneres, who is lesbian and in a same-sex marriage, for spending time with a politician who has expressed Biblical beliefs about marriage and sexuality.

Degeneres responded on her show on Tuesday.

“I’m friends with a lot of people who don’t share the same beliefs that I have,” she said. “Just because I don’t agree with someone on everything doesn’t mean that I’m not going to be friends with them. When I say, be kind to one another, I don’t mean only the people that think the same way that you do. I mean be kind to everyone.” —L.L.

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Loren Skinker

Loren is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute.

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Lynde Langdon

Lynde is a WORLD Digital’s managing editor. She is a graduate of World Journalism Institute, the Missouri School of Journalism, and the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Lynde resides with her family in Wichita, Kansas. Follow Lynde on Twitter @lmlangdon.

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  • CJ
    Posted: Sat, 10/12/2019 09:55 am

    "Wisdom of Children" so Disney and others will rework films to please the Chinese government  but at the same time Disney and the other sue VidAngel for reworking films to please American viewers. 

  • hilltop5
    Posted: Sat, 10/12/2019 03:42 pm

    “Degeneres, who is lesbian and in a same-sex marriage.”

    It’s unfortunate we have allowed our culture to redefine marriage to the extent the term is now used flippantly to describe a relationship between same-sex individuals. Man cannot redefine what God has defined.  Maybe World should consider putting ther term in quotes or not using it altogether when referring to a relationship between same-sex individuals.  Same-sex couples are not and can never be married. This isn’t meant to be unkind to those experiencing same-sex attraction, just stand up for God’s word.

  • JerryM
    Posted: Sun, 10/13/2019 12:17 am

    I have brought this issue up previously.  Unfortunately, it appears to be an editorial decision involving "weariness" on the part of editors over dealing with the issue.  I do think World needs to have the courage to stand for truth and this (including quotation marks) is one way they can do it. 

  • mp
    Posted: Sun, 10/13/2019 08:46 am

    Unfortunately, the Church has lost control of the definition of the word marriage in the broad culture. I think if we are trying to communicate to the world at large (including Christians who accept same-sex marriage), the best we can do is use the appropriate modifiers to communicate that we don't accept the world's definition of marriage. Scare quotes probably don't serve any useful purpose in general communication. Using appropriate modifiers tells those around us that we do not accept their use of the simple term, marriage.

    Posted: Sat, 10/12/2019 03:56 pm

    It's sad that there are still people who will try to control who you can be friends with. Just like in high school. 

    DEMS call people HATERS. DEMS are the BIGGEST HATERS on the planet. They are also RACIST. I'm surprised Bernie hasn't spoken out about it. 

    THE HOLLYWOOD PARTY will ALSO go after your children, no matter their age. Which makes them the good guys???

  • OldMike
    Posted: Sun, 10/13/2019 02:42 pm

    Truth spoken by South Park’s vulgar little hooligans, truth spoken by Ellen Degeneres. Proof of the old saying, “Even a stopped clock is right twice a day!”