The upcoming September 3rd military parade and national holiday will put a focus on China’s War of Resistance against Japan, known in the rest of the world as World War II, but those outside the country might be surprised to learn there has been a constant drumbeat of anti-Japanese dramas airing in the country now for years. Especially lately, there is a war drama being broadcast on national television every night, and people are getting fed up with it.
The dramas are called “God shows” in China because they feature Chinese protagonists who use “Godly” powers in order to defeat invading Japanese imperialist forces, often tearing apart Japanese soldiers by hand or performing other near-supernatural abilities against their enemies. One recent show called “Let’s Fight the Japs Together” featured sprinter Liu Xiang’s ex-wife’s character pulling out a hand grenade that was concealed inside her vagina.
A recent poll by China Youth Daily shows people are increasingly tired of seeing these “God shows” because they are so outlandish.
Out of some 2,000 respondents that participated in the poll, 46 percent say they are worried that “God shows” will influence the younger generation to improperly learn about the history of the war, while 47 percent say they distort history and show a basic misunderstanding of it. Forty-six percent said the market is over-saturated with “God shows”, while 39 percent criticized the shows for becoming entertainment that panders to a vulgar audience.
Most surprising, perhaps, is that a whopping 75 percent blame the government for the glut of outrageous war films because it has sole approval over what films are broadcast. Especially in the last few weeks, some “God shows” have shown Chinese heroes battling Japanese soldiers using increasingly outlandish plots, but China’s film watchdog has still given them the greenlight.
Chinese audiences have long spoken out against the proliferation of these shows. Recently, an unnamed 99 year-old Sichuan veteran of the war spoke out against “God shows’, saying:
How was the war of resistance as easy as seen on TV? As if a few people could have easily killed a whole squadron of Japs? If it was really that way, would we have had to sacrifice so many of our brothers, and had to have arduously fight the war of resistance for eight full years?
Xu Zhenglin, professor at Shanghai U Film and TV Art Academy, said Chinese audiences ridicule “God shows” for having exaggerated plots that are contrary to history:
What’s worth noting is that these War of Resistance ‘God shows’ portray the enemy as mentally deficient, and exchange the arduous blood-soaked battles with victories that are easily won. This doesn’t just distort history, this doesn’t respect the martyrs that defended this country with their lives. These shows will no doubt have a negative impact on the public, in particular upon the values of young people and upon their perspective of history.
Zuo Heng, researcher at the National Film Art Research Center, said there should be a distinction between historically accurate War of Resistance war dramas and “God shows”:
Many War of Resistance serials portray the enemy as being extremely stupid, something that is most irresponsible.
Sun Chengjian, deputy researcher of the Film and TV Research Wing of the National Art Research Center, said there is something much greater at stake when considering the global impact these shows have on the international stage:
Think about it, our film and television products should have a degree of influence of soft power when distributed to other countries, but all of this is completely eliminated by the massive production of cheap and inferior ‘War of Resistance God shows’ in which the Japs are torn apart by hand.
Meanwhile, Chinese war propaganda is alive and well in the USA with the broadcast of a WWII veterans video in New York City’s Times Square.