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About the CCTV Spring Festival Gala’s ‘Racist’ Africa Comedy Sketch

A CCTV Gala segment emphasizing good Sino-African relations has drawn criticism for being racist.

Manya Koetse

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One of the skits performed during the 2018 CCTV Spring Gala has rubbed a great many people the wrong way for being racist and offensive. “Foreign media are going to explode,” one Weibo user wrote.

The annual Spring Festival Gala, produced and broadcasted by the state-run CCTV, has come to an end. The show, that draws some 700 million viewers every year, is central to the evening leading up to the celebration of the Chinese New Year.

Every year, there is bound to be an act that draws controversy, and this year was no different. The comedy sketch titled “Share the Same Joy and Happiness” (“同喜同乐”) struck the wrong note with many social media users, who deemed it ‘inappropriate’, ‘offensive’, and ‘racist.’

According to the official CCTV Gala Weibo account (@春晚), the skit was supposed to represent a scene in Kenya, where a Chinese host (played by Zheng Kai 郑恺), local people, and railway staff are celebrating the opening of the deluxe rail line between Nairobi and Mombasa, built by China.

As explained by SCMP, the scene opens with a performance by African dancers and then moves on to a conversation between the host and his African friend. She asks for his help to get out of a blind date arranged by her mother.

It is this ‘African mother’ that has caused consternation online. The role was played by the Chinese actress Lou Naiming (娄乃鸣), who was wearing a fruit basket on her head and was padded with a large bottom. She also arrived at the scene accompanied by an actor in a monkey costume.

The scene ends with Zheng Kai’s Chinese bride arriving, making it impossible for him to play his friend’s blind date anymore. The mother, as SCMP notes, then states she can’t be angry over the issue ‘because China has done so much for Africa.’ She says: “I love Chinese people! I love China!”

Image via Twitter user Kaisa Kantola (@kaisa_kantola)

Besides its Chinese actors, the skit was also performed by actors from Gabon, Kenya, and Ivory Coast.

Lou Naiming (1951), the woman wearing blackface, is a renowned actress, playwright and producer in the PRC.

The main idea of the comedy sketch fitted the narrative of the overall theme of the CCTV Gala, which stressed China’s (international) development and the One Belt, One Road initiative.

Although the segment was likely meant to emphasize good Sino-African relations, the performance seems to have backfired.

On Weibo, reactions to the performance were mixed. Although some people said they liked it, many also called it the most “awkward” segment of the night.

“I just think this is awkward, isn’t the Gala inspected thoroughly [before airing]?”, one person wondered. Other people also raised the topic of China’s strong censorship, asking why a performance such as this would have been accepted.

“I think it’s a bit racist (种族歧视),” another Weibo user said. “What do our African friends think of this?” others wondered.

“This is plain racism, the foreign media are going to explode,” another micro-blogger wrote.

While “awkward” was the key response to the skit on Weibo, “racism” was mostly mentioned on social media platforms Twitter and Reddit.

“OMFG anyone watching this racism right now in the gala?” was a topic that became top trending on the Reddit China page during the airing of the CCTV Gala (live blog of the Gala here).

But there were also other opinions on Wechat, where some Chinese commenters said that if it were not for the many Chinese lines the ‘mother’ role had, the CCTV Gala would have used an African actress to play this role – suggesting that it was more an issue of language practicality than racism.

The CCTV Gala controversy reminds of the 2016 Qiaobi commercial issue, when a Chinese washing powder ad drew much controversy outside of China for being “completely racist.” The commercial, that showed a black man being put in a laundry machine and coming out as Chinese, was later taken down by the company.

The Chinese Qiaobi commercial drew much controversy for being racist in 2016.

For the CCTV Gala, there is no way to ‘take down’ its controversial sketch. By now, more than 700 million people will have seen the event, which is the world’s biggest live televised show.

Some people on Weibo, however, are already placing bets that the controversial segment will not be included in the finalized online edition of the Gala.

We’ll keep you updated.

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2018 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the founder and editor-in-chief of whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer, public speaker, and researcher (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends, digital developments, and new media in an ever-changing China, with a focus on Chinese society, pop culture, and gender issues. She shares her love for hotpot on hotpotambassador.com. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Cepted

    February 16, 2018 at 5:16 pm

    oh man chill the fuck down this is china not fucking us with their diverse shit

    • Avatar

      Harvey

      February 16, 2018 at 5:58 pm

      Shut the fuck up.

  2. Avatar

    Harvey

    February 16, 2018 at 5:57 pm

    Disgusting, racist. Do Africa a favor, China, and leave.

    • Avatar

      Wang Chu

      February 17, 2018 at 6:32 am

      Shut up, white American. This is our country, we don’t have your racist history. We never enslaved Africans, that’s your history not ours. We never mocked black people, that’s your history not ours. We never oppressed black people, your ancestors did and you do today. Go look in the mirror at your racist self and see how you keep blacks down on a daily basis without even realizing it.

  3. Avatar

    Fu Xi

    February 16, 2018 at 11:05 pm

    Wow… someone on the internet said that?!? I don’t think I will sleep tonight. This is China lady, no-one cares and no-one ever will care about your sensitivities.

    Media uproar, the journalist’s weapon of choice.

  4. Avatar

    Floored

    February 25, 2018 at 10:23 am

    Oh, I get it. As long as Africans appear in a skit, it’s racist. Wow. Just wow.

    Political correctness is killing modern society.

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China Insight

‘Divorce Day’: Queuing Up to Get Divorced after Chinese Spring Festival Holiday

The first day after the Spring Festival holiday is a busy one at the Bureau of Civil Affairs as couples are lining up to register a divorce.

Manya Koetse

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On the first day after the Chinese Spring Festival holiday (Jan. 21-27), there are long lines at the Civil Affairs Bureau in several places across China.

In Jiangxi, one resident shared how couples were queuing up to file for divorce on the first day the local Bureau of Civil Affairs reopened its doors. The lines were allegedly so long that people had to wait outside. Another video showed similar scenes at a local bureau in Anhui province. A third video showed crowded scenes of people lining up to register a divorce in Henan.

Chinese media accounts such as Toutiao News (@头条新闻), Vista (@Vista看天下), and Phoenix News (@凤凰周刊) all posted about the long divorce lines on Jan. 29, with one post about the topic receiving 70,000 likes.

“I thought they were lining up to get married, then I watched the news and saw they were actually lining up to get divorced..,” one commenter wrote. Others wondered if the busy lines for the divorce registration office might have something to do with the Covid outbreak over the past weeks, with some couples finding out that their partner actually is not very sympathetic when they are sick (also read this article).

The Chinese media outlets posting about the divorce registration lines mentioned how the ones who suffer the most in a divorce are the children, but many commenters did not agree with this statement, arguing that children suffer the most when parents stay together for the sake of the children and then continue fighting.

The divorce trend after the Chinese Lunar New Year has also been discussed in Chinese media and on social media in previous years (“春节后离婚潮”).

In Western countries, it is a known fact that divorce rates increase after Christmas time; the Monday after Christmas break is also dubbed “Divorce Day.” Some sources claim this is often due to quarrels that occur during Christmas and the financial pressures that come with the festive season.

It is arguably not much different for the Chinese New Year, when incidents taking place during family gatherings could be the straw that broke the camel’s back.

“The Spring Festival is like a big marriage minefield,” one commenter wrote: “When you return to your family home, it doesn’t just mean reuniting with your close relatives, there are also various tests of human relations and etiquette. A careless moment can cause conflicts between a married couple, leading to quarrels or even divorce. Is your marriage good or not? You will know during the Chinese New Year. After the New Year, there will be a wave of divorces.”

But the pandemic situation of the past years, in including the lockdowns, mental stress and financial difficulties, inescapably also play a role in the recent divorce wave.

In December of 2022, this Chinese blog article already predicted that more people would file for divorce after the Chinese New Year since the end of the holiday would coincide with the end of the Covid peak. In times of lockdown, and especially in times of sickness, couples easily get annoyed with each other and their love is put to the test.

Earlier this month, some Chinese media also reported that three years after the pandemic began, cities were already seeing a “divorce wave” (#疫情后一线城市离婚预约爆满#).

Some netizens comment that the ‘cool-off’ period that was introduced to allow couples a month’s time to think and revoke their divorce does not seem to have much effect.

Some people sympathize with those standing in line: “Celebrating the New Year can bring about a war in some families. The divorce season has started.”

By Manya Koetse 

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China Arts & Entertainment

Chinese Social Media Reactions to The New York Times Bad Review of ‘Wandering Earth 2’

A New York Times bad review of ‘Wandering Earth II’ has triggered online discussions: “China’s gonna save the world, the US can’t stand it.”

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This Chinese Spring Festival, it’s all about going to the movies. After sluggish years for China’s movie market during the pandemic, Chinese cinemas welcomed millions of visitors back to the theaters during the weeklong Spring Festival holiday.

Much-anticipated new movies attracted Chinese moviegoers this festive season, including Full River Red by Zhang Yimou, the suspenseful Hidden Blade, or the animated Deep Sea by Tian Xiaopeng.

But the undisputed Spring Festival box office champion of 2023 is Frant Gwo’s Wandering Earth II (流浪地球II), the sequel to China’s all-time highest-grossing sci-fi epic Wandering Earth (2019), which also became the fifth highest-grossing non-English film of all time.

The narrative of the follow-up movie Wandering Earth II actually takes place before the events of the first film and focuses on the efforts by the United Earth Government (UEG) to propel the Earth out of the solar system to avoid planetary disaster. This so-called Moving Mountain Project – which later becomes the Wandering Earth Project – is not just met with protest (the majority of Americans don’t believe in it), it also bans the Digital Life Project, which supports the idea that the future of humanity can be saved by preserving human consciousness on computers (backed by an American majority). The film is all about hope and resilience, human destiny, and geopolitics at a time of apocalyptic chaos.

Outside of China, the sequel was also released in, among others, North American, Australian, and UK cinemas.

Although the film, featuring movie stars Wu Jing and Andy Lau, received an 8.2 on the Chinese rating & review platform Douban, a 9.4 on movie ticketing app Maoyan, dozens of positive reviews on Bilibili, and was overall very well-received among Chinese viewers, a bad review by The New York Times triggered discussions on Chinese social media this weekend.

Chinese media outlet The Observer (观察者网) initiated a Weibo hashtag about “The New York Times‘s completely sour review of Wandering Earth II” (#纽约时报酸味拉满差评流浪地球2#, 6.2 million views at time of writing).

The New York Times review of Wandering Earth II, titled “The Wandering Earth II Review: It Wanders Too Far,” was written by Brandon Yu and published in print on January 27, 2023.

Yu does not have a lot of good things to say about China’s latest blockbuster. Although he calls the 2019 The Wandering Earth “entertaining enough,” he writes that the sequel is a movie that is “audaciously messy” and has lost “all of the glee” its predecessor had:

“(..) the movie instead offers nearly three hours of convoluted storylines, undercooked themes and a tangle of confused, glaringly state-approved political subtext.”

The topic was discussed on Chinese social media using various hashtags, including “The New York Times Gave Wandering Earth II a 3″ (#纽约时报给流浪地球打30分#, #纽约时报给流浪地球2打30分#).

Instead of triggering anger, the bad review actually instilled a sense of pride among many Chinese, who argued that the review showed the impact the movie has made. Some commenters pointed out that the movie is a new milestone in Chinese cinema, not just threatening America’s domination of the movie industry but also setting a narrative in which China leads the way.

“We’re gonna save the world, and America just can’t stand it,” one commenter replied.

That same view was also reiterated by other bloggers. The author and history blogger Zhang Yi’an (@张忆安-龙战于野) argued that The New York Times review was not necessarily bad; it actually shows that Americans feel threatened by the idea of China’s important role in a new international world order, and by the fact that China actually will have the capacity to lead the way when it comes to, for example, space technology innovation, robotics, and artificial intelligence.

Zhang argues that if a similar movie had been made by India as a Bollywood blockbuster – including exploding suns and wandering earths – The New York Times would have been more forgiving and might have even called it cute or silly.

But because this is China, the film’s success and its narrative plays into existing fears over China’s rise, and it clashes with American values about what the international community should look like.

Zhang writes: “The China in the movie doesn’t boast itself as the savior of the world, but in reality, China really is capable of saving the world. The United States is no longer able to do so (电影里的中国没有把自己吹嘘成救世主,现实中的中国真的有能力做救世主。而美国却已经不能了).”

One popular Film & TV account (@影视综艺君) also summarized the general online reaction to the bad review in the American newspaper: “Whenever the enemy gets scared, it must mean we’re doing it right. Our cultural export has succeeded.” That post received over 120,000 likes.

On Zhihu.com, some commenters also attached little value to the review and showed how the overseas reviews of Wandering Earth II widely varied in their verdict.

Meanwhile, a state media-initiated hashtag on Weibo claimed on January 28 that Wandering Earth II has actually “captured the hearts of many overseas audiences” (#流浪地球2海外上映获好评#), and that the film’s “imaginative” and “wonderful” visuals combined with its strong storyline were being praised by moviegoers outside of China.

On IMDB, the movie has received 5.9/10; it has gotten a 70% Rotten Tomatoes score. The Guardian gave it 2/5. Meanwhile, on Weibo, one reviewer after the other gives the film 5/5 stars.

Weibo blogger Lang Yanzhi (@郎言志) writes: “Recently, we’ve seen a lot of attacks and slander directed at the China-made science fiction movie Wandering Earth 2, especially coming from Western media and pro-Western forces, because the film’s “Chinese salvation” narrative made them uncomfortable. This was already the case when the first film in the series was released. It is very clear that Wandering Earth is not just a movie: it is a symbol of great influence.”

By Manya Koetse , with contributions by Zilan Qian

 

Get the story behind the hashtag. Subscribe to What’s on Weibo here to receive our newsletter and get access to our latest articles:

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©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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