CCP follows the Mormons…

…and bans the movie Brokeback Mountain in China.

Gay cowboy romance Brokeback Mountain has been banned in mainland China after outraging censors there.

The film shocked China’s broadcast regulator the State Administration of Radio, Film & Television, as the nation still considers homosexuality a taboo subject.

Director Ang Lee last week hailed Asia for having a more open-minded stance on sexuality – so the ban will be a blow to the Taiwanese film maker.

Meanwhile, sexual content in Memoirs of a Geisha, which stars Chinese stars Gong Li and Ziyi Zhang, also caused a stir, but distributor Columbia TriStar insists the movie will eventually be screened in China.

Of course, Chinese people who want to see the movie have already bought the pirated DVD, which probably appeared on the street within 48 hours of the film’s premier in the US. Still, it’s a shame that that’s the only way it’ll be available.

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 15 Comments

“Director Ang Lee last week hailed Asia for having a more open-minded stance on sexuality ”

More open minded than where? Saudi Arabia?

January 28, 2006 @ 8:31 am | Comment

I’m trying not to be shocked by this news. Since the film’s release it has attracted widespread praise, including CCTV. So it would seem that the CCP are happy to take the plaudits for the director’s success while denying Chinese people the right to judge for themselves.

On second thoughts, no; I’m really not shocked by this at all.

January 28, 2006 @ 9:22 am | Comment

Does anyone know if Lee An’s The Wedding Banquet was also banned by the CCP?

January 28, 2006 @ 9:46 am | Comment

Good question, but The Wedding Banquet didn’t have any gay sex in it, did it?

January 28, 2006 @ 9:50 am | Comment

I haven’t seen The Wedding Banquet in several years. I’m sure that there was nothing sexually explicit in it, though. The tone was much lighter than Brokeback Mountain as well, that might have made a difference as far as censorship is concerned.

January 28, 2006 @ 1:19 pm | Comment

What do they have against cowboys?

January 28, 2006 @ 9:44 pm | Comment

Has anyone actually seen this film? So far, all I’ve heard about it is a) it’s about cowboys b) they’re gay c) critics say it’s great d) various places have banned it.

But … what it is actually about? So far, I’ve managed to work out that they’re not actually cowboys … they herd sheep … but I guess “gay sheepboys” doesn’t have quite the same appeal?

January 28, 2006 @ 11:50 pm | Comment

Nope, not yet. I did read the story it’s based on. If you take away the gay element, it’s basically about how fear keeps people away from love, how seldom real love comes along in our lives, and what the consequences of not accepting that love are.

January 29, 2006 @ 12:43 am | Comment

And yeah…technically, they’re “ranch hands.”

January 29, 2006 @ 12:44 am | Comment

Just a side note: I have seen the movie advertised in many places in Taipei as “The Pride of Taiwan” (as Ang Lee is Taiwanese) It is kind of a retrospectively ironic way of referring to the movie, seeing as how it is now banned in China.

January 29, 2006 @ 1:24 am | Comment

What a shame, the usual X steps forward, (X-1) steps back.

However, I still remain very optimistic about the growing acceptance of homosexuality in China. With China’s traditional tolerance (sometimes even embrace) of same-gender romance and sexuality, I expect that in just a generation or so Chinese (urban) society is going to reach a level of tolerance similar to that of Northern Europe (and well beyond that of the USA …).

So, despite today’s news, and the recent closing of the Beijing film festival (which may or may not have been motivated by anti-gay bigotry), I am ever more strongly convinced that gay marriage will happen in China before the US. This is one of the many good things happening in China that I think are easily lost sight of amongst the more prominent gales of the hurricane of change.

Regarding Brokeback Mountain, I hope to see it soon! I’m just giving time for a “good” copy to trickle down to the street vendors (not interested in crappy camcorder grabs). When it comes to gay films, I prefer romantic ones about ranch hands to campy flicks about drag queens. :-)

I believe “Wedding Banquet” was banned in the mainland, although I have met Chinese who have seen it (no surprise), just as I’ve met Shanghainese who’ve seen the banned “Suzhou River” (in fact, I bought a copy here in Shangtown).

By the way, if you like Hitchcock or film noir, don’t miss Ye Lou’s “Suzhou He” (“Suzhou River”) of 1999. It’s something of a tribute to “Vertigo” set in a very noir-ish late 90s Shanghai (where it’s always gritty and raining). Zhou Xun, I believe in her first role, plays multiple parts in a very unusual tale of a romance and a kidnapping that intersect and go wrong. I strongly recommend it, especially if you like Wang JiaWei (Wong Kar Wai). A good example of what Imagethief Will referred to as China’s enormous “latent cool” factor, something else I expect to see blossom in the next generation. If only the traffic doesn’t kill me first … :-)

January 29, 2006 @ 2:20 am | Comment

Richard, do you hate the Mormons?

February 2, 2006 @ 5:27 am | Comment

Liu Yixi

This film went straight to number 1 in Taiwan, and is expected to do well in Japan too.

Asia is actually far more open minded about homosexuality than America is. It’s only really China that’s the prude.

Go to Japan and you will see that any good book store will have a 少年愛 (Male Effection) shelf in it’s Manga section. If you want to buy that kind of book in America, you often have to go to a pornography store. Even if the bok contains no actual porn.

Maybe you should also go to to Thailand, where the Bancock boy-chicks are out in force.

I could find you the names of a dozen places in Asia that are more tollerant of this kind of thing that in the US.

February 2, 2006 @ 5:37 am | Comment

I don’t hate the mormons; I’ve had quite a few Mormon friends and I believe people should be free to practice whatever religion they choose. Many aspects of Mormonism, as with other cults, give me the creeps and when they impose their belief systems on communities I get anxious. I find their religion bizarre, as it is the only major religion I know of to have literally no grounding in history. There is documentation from many centuries ago that support many aspects of the Old and New Testaments – not the miracles, but at least the existence of many key figures and events described. Not so with the “Book of Mormon,” which is a pure and total bullshit fantasy concocted by a troubled and dangerous man. That it has caught on as it has is an unsettling phenomenon.

February 2, 2006 @ 9:56 am | Comment

Join me in writing to Chinese Embassies asking them to lift the ban on Brokeback.(515 St. Patrick St., Ottawa, Ontario K1N 5H3; 2300 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20008) or send an email to me, just mark ?embassy letter?. Copies of all emails will then be mailed to one or both embassies at the end of October.

July 17, 2006 @ 6:03 pm | Comment

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