Disney censors China Simpsons episode

One episode of The Simpsons was missing when Disney’s streaming service launched in Hong Kong.

There’s something particularly perverse about censoring commentary about censorship, but Disney didn’t see the irony. Or if it did, it didn’t care.

An episode of The Simpsons has been censored on Disney’s streaming platform in Hong Kong, according to Variety, citing local media.

Disney+ launched in Hong Kong earlier this month and there was a glaring omission in its library – episode 12 of season 16.

The episode features the cartoon family travelling to China as part of a plot involving Selma’s adoption of a baby. As part of the tour around Beijing, the Simpsons visit Tiananmen Square, the site of a mass killing of unarmed student protesters by the military in 1989.

Specifically, the episode depicts a plaque which claims that “nothing happened” on the site.

This is followed by a character, voiced by Lucy Liu, who rolls into the square on a tank to stop Selma from leaving the country with her adopted baby.

References to the Tiananmen Square massacre are censored in mainland China. The Chinese government’s official count of killed protesters is 200, while other estimates put the figure from hundreds to thousands.

The episode also features Homer Simpson remarking over the corpse of Mao Zedong, “Look at him, sleeping, he’s like a little angel that killed 50 million people”.

It’s estimated tens of millions of Chinese people died during Mao’s Cultural Revolution and the Great Leap Forward, predominantly through famine but also as a result of political killings.

There are also references to China’s disputed sovereignty claim over Tibet.

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Disney+ is not available in China, where media is heavily censored, but Hong Kong has increasingly been pulled into the same censorship net in recent years.

The Asian financial centre was handed back from the British government to China in 1997, with a 50-year agreement that Beijing wouldn’t interfere in Hong Kong’s political and economic systems.

That agreement is now in tatters with Beijing’s increasingly heavy-handed rule over the region. The introduction of national security laws has seen the jailing of Hong Kong independence dissenters and activists and the shuttering of media while human rights organisations have exited.

There is also a restoration of a film censorship law in Hong Kong, which was used to ban certain titles that was critical of the government.

Mainland China is a crucial and lucrative market for Disney. In addition to operating a theme park in Shanghai, China is now the world’s largest cinema box office, having overtaken North America during the pandemic.

The Chinese government allows a limited number of foreign films to be released on the mainland each year, which can be lucrative for Hollywood studios. Disney’s Avengers Endgame raked in $US629 million in China in 2019.

Increasingly, Disney has seen its films frozen out of the Chinese market, including Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, a Marvel superhero epic that features a lead character from a Chinese background. Two other Marvel movies, Black Widow and Eternals, have not been given releases in China.

Other Hollywood studios are also feeling the cold shoulder, including Warner Bros’ Space Jam: A New Legacy and Sony’s Venom sequel, as Chinese audiences flock to homegrown epics.

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The two highest grossing films in the world in 2021 so far have been Chinese-made patriotic war epic The Battle at Lake Changjin and Hi, Mom.

The Bond movie No Time to Die and the ninth instalment of the Fast and Furious saga, F9, were both released in China this year.

Disney has previously removed a third season episode of The Simpsons from its streaming service globally which featured Michael Jackson, in the wake of child abuse allegations aired in the documentary Leaving Neverland.

Disney has been contacted for comment.

Read related topics:China


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