‘We too love money more than freedom’: South Park creators issue mock apology over Chinese censorship – The Washington Post
Last week, the latest episode of “South Park” took aim at Hollywood and the National Basketball Association for cowing to Chinese censorship. Just days later, the theme proved prophetic after an NBA executive’s tweet supporting Hong Kong protesters prompted harsh Chinese reaction and quick backtracking by the league.
But viewers in China may not get to see the Comedy Central show’s take on the issue, as “South Park” has been censored in the Communist nation, prompting creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker to issue a mock apology on Monday that took another shot at the NBA and China.
“Like the NBA, we welcome the Chinese censors into our homes and into our hearts,” the duo wrote in a statement on Twitter. “We too love money more than freedom and democracy.”
The criticism comes amid a wave of Hollywood films adjusting to the whims of Chinese censorship and during the annual journey NBA teams make to China to grow the league’s foreign fan base.
Filmmakers have worked hard to appease Chinese censors and appeal to its audiences in recent years, in order to rake in millions at the nation’s box offices. The women-led “Ghostbusters” remake in 2016 tried to slip past the ban on films that promote superstitions or cults by changing its translated title — and may have walked back the LGBT identity of Kate McKinnon’s character, Vanity Fair reported — but Chinese officials blocked the film’s release anyway. That same year, “Zootopia” replaced a moose with a panda just for the film’s Chinese launch. Earlier this year, filmmakers clipped nearly three minutes of footage from the Queen biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” to remove all references to Freddie Mercury’s sexuality.
The controversy over a since-deleted tweet from Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey has brought criticism of Chinese censorship to the forefront yet again.
On Wednesday, “South Park” released an episode called “Band in China,” which featured the clueless Randy Marsh, the most prominently featured parent in the show, detained in a Chinese prison and labor camp for trying to sell the marijuana he grows on his Colorado farm to what he thinks will be a large, untapped market in China. Meanwhile, his son, Stan, battles with a film producer over the script for a biopic about his death metal band as Chinese advisers request rewrite after rewrite to appease the government’s strict content standards.
“For this movie to really make money, we need to clear the Chinese censors,” the producer tells Stan. “You gotta lower your ideals of freedom if you wanna” do business in China, he adds, punctuating the joke with a graphic metaphor.
In a scene at the beginning of the episode, several NBA players, including one wearing a Houston Rockets jersey, and recognizable Disney characters — including Elsa of “Frozen” and Thor of “The Avengers” — fly to China as brand ambassadors to entice Chinese viewers to tune in to their American programming. Randy goes to extreme lengths to satisfy the Chinese officials and regain his freedom, eventually strangling Winnie the Pooh, another victim of the country’s suppression of speech. His son rejects the censors’ demands, boldly proclaiming that he cannot sell his soul to make money in the Chinese film market.
“It’s not worth living in a world where China control