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Why do Chinese find Netflix’s 3 Body Problem Problematic?

The Chinese internet influencer shares her thoughts on how Netflix neither possesses an interest nor an ability to understand China's political system.

March 29, 2024
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Meng Meng
Artist, Current affairs commentator

Ever since Netflix’s 3 Body Problem made its highly anticipated first appearance, it has faced with a barrage of complaints. The glaring ideological maneuvering needs no further elaboration- such as resetting male character Wang Miao as a white female character with diverse sexual orientations, casting Luo Ji as black and Zhang Beihai as Indian, stressing China’s Cultural Revolution, depicting excessive sexual tension and act between various characters, and inserting confounding acts of kneeling to confess to the aliens, just to name a few. In summary, the movie is an exposé of American ideological exports.

Feel free to explore comments from sources outside of China if you suspect biases influenced by nationalism among Chinese reviewers. We can see that most movie reviews coincide in their criticisms, except for those from pseudo art enthusiasts who blindly worship the West.

Let’s delve a little deeper into the Hugo Award, and we will find that, like other American awards, it is fraught with problems.

Science fiction carries with it leftist genes since its inception.it is fundamentally an artistic form created for exploring various changes brought about by technology and capitalism. Whether it’s the nostalgic steampunk or the cyberpunk genre, which envisions combination of lowlife and high tech, they conform in their concerns with the shifting dynamic between technology and humanity, as well as between capitalism and humanity. The birth of science fiction represents the culmination of thoughts and practices by the leftist academia and leftist art worldwide spanning the past two hundred years.

Take a look at the two Chinese novels that were awarded the Hugo Awards — something smells fishy here. ‘Folding Beijing’ depicts a Chinese city divided into separate spaces under the extremity of capitalism, as often found in the cyberpunk genre, also an antithetical of the vision most Chinese people have for its own country.
The same goes for Liu Cixin’s 3 Body Problem. The powerful message of the book, which advocates for hope in humanity despite aberrations in history, is misconstrued and 3 Body Problem is reduced into an endless display of China’s Cultural Revolution. Those individuals who made the choice either have no idea what China’s political system is and Chinese people’s own reflections on it, or their ulterior motives got the better of them.

Even a cursory glance at award-winning American films and TV shows reveals how American values are disseminated through visual art. In my episode on ‘Killers of the Flower Moon,’ I highlighted the tendency of classic American movies to glorify the massacre of Native Americans in western expansion by portraying it as the story of Arabian Lawrence or other heroic tales. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

The ideology of American artworks has been evolving with changing societal trends. I consider those produced in the American Baby Boom era to be of better taste and higher value. It was a period which has witnessed the global rise of leftist ideals, during which liberalism was completely on the defensive. This ideological shift was largely influenced by the success of socialist countries, which posed a significant challenge to the capitalist-dominated world ideology of the time.
If you compare DC Comics, which debuted in the 1930s, with Marvel Comics, which debuted in the 1960s, you will understand the vast differences in worldview. They are basically diametrically opposed.

In the 1930s, the United States pursued a foreign policy of isolationism to keep at a safe distance all the chaos unfolding in the European continent, and was certainly not acting as the world’s policeman. It was also U.S.’s response to the Great Depression of the 1930s which followed the period of economic prosperity in the roaring twenties, also known as the jazz age and prohibition era.

The wealth gap was alarmingly large prior to the New Deal and leftist movements. Consequently, the lower class lived under the law of the jungle. However, their path to upward mobility within this jungle was obstructed by the conclusion of American westward expansion and the gold rush. With the cessation of rampant slaughter and frenzied infrastructure development, opportunities for upward mobility for the lower class vanished. As a result, they were left with no choice but to endure disorder and poverty.

Thus came the superheroes like Batman and Superman, all of whom were blue-blooded aristocrats in the DC Universe. Batman’s millionaire parents were killed in the street because of poor public security, with Gotham City corresponding to New York at that time, full of gangsters and the mafia; Superman’s parents were scientists from Krypton, and he himself, after being raised by farmers on Earth, received a good education and became a journalist. Wonder Woman also holds a prestigious status as an Amazon princess. None of these superheroes come from anything but upper class — what were the lower class doing in the DC Universe? They became psychopathic villains at failure of rising through the law of the jungle.

So the underlying worldview manifests itself in portraying the upper class to be elegant, strong, and just, while depicting the lower class as dark, twisted, and mentally deranged. In our era of neoliberalism, the worldview that was the culprit of the Great Depression once again finds itself promoted in movies. Typical example would be ‘Parasite’ from South Korea which previously won the Oscars.

Many film reviews interpret “Parasite” as a self-reflection on South Korean capitalist society and the wealth disparity it brings— it couldn’t be further from the truth. The movie intends to show how bad and degraded poor people are, and how they are willing to compromise in exchange for a meal.

Isn’t it what we are witnessing in the United States now? The lower class is resorting to looting or occupying other people’s houses to survive the economic rock bottom.
So, it is important to understand history because films and television often serve as subconscious reflections of society. By understanding history, we can avoid being easily manipulated by conscious ideological propaganda and avoid blindly following agendas set by others.

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Meng Meng
Artist, Current affairs commentator
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