Thursday, May 20, 2004

Season of the Witch
Back from Hong Kong - yes, dudes and dudettes, I got the gig and will be relocating within three weeks, thankyoujeebus! - and one of the first stories I began editing upon my return was a nifty little number that began: "Authorities have banned foreign movies in mainland theaters in July and October...the ban is part of the 'cleaning the screen' campaign aimed at reducing the cultural impact brought about by foreign movies."
Among the offending films are (pause for drumroll) Spider-Man 2 and Harry Potter 3. No reason was given for SM2, which according to the story, may get a reprieve but HP3 is on the Sino-shit list for reasons that will be wearily familiar to Potter fans in the West.
"Sources said it had been banned on the mainland because it involved ghosts and witchcraft..."
I immediately thought of the plethora of daily shows on Chinese television that involve "ghosts and witchcraft." Plucked from Chinese mythology, the ghosts (almost always women) and the witches (both genders) can be seen on multiple channels from afternoon through evening levitating, throwing lightning bolts, brewing potions, shape-shifting and generally casting their commercial spells on viewers and sponsors alike.
One of my faves is a combination witch/ghost - "The White Snake Woman." She's a snake sorceress who turns into a ghost woman and travels into the future to romantically bewitch a prince (played by a woman - LESBIAN ALERT!) and then back into a snake when her dirty work is done.
I asked a couple Chinese friends about this apparent hypocrisy when it comes to foreign hoodoo vs. Chinese black magic.
One told me simply and seriously that "Chinese ghosts are culturally superior because they are more romantic."
Another took a more pragmatic view. "I think the movie companies did not pay the Chinese film bureau enough money and because the movies were already booked they probably had to have another reason." I pressed her about the culturally superior ghosts notion, though.
"That's probably true, too," she said. "But the most important thing is that Chinese ghosts payed more than foreign ghosts."

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