addiction tv show

No More Gay Relationships Allowed on Chinese TV (Or One Night Stands, Either)

Also banned: superstition

China’s state censors are at it again. According to new guidelines, television programs are prohibited from depicting “uncommon sexual relationships and sexual behaviors” such as gay dating and romance.

The guidelines were created by the China Television Production Committee of the China Alliance of Radio, Film and Television (CARFT), a new media watchdog created last November, and the China Television Drama Production Industry Association.

Other sexual content banned from TV programs include extramarital affairs and one-night stands, which promote “unhealthy marriage values” and “underage love”. Programs are also forbidden from showing superstitious acts such as reincarnation and witchcraft, or any ideas deemed “feudal”. Finally, crime investigation scenes have been banned in order to deter aspiring criminals.

Although homosexual acts were decriminalized in 1997, and the Chinese Psychiatric Association struck down homosexuality as a “disorder” in 2001, gay marriage remains illegal and television shows depicting gay characters have been few and far between.

The most prominent showing of gay characters in Chinese pop culture was the hit online TV show Addiction. The program was the first to hit 100 million views within a month. However, the success of Addiction among Chinese audiences was met with a heavy hand by Chinese censors when it was banned late last month with just three shows left on its roster.

Whether or not China’s gay community is being discriminated against, we should keep in mind that while Chinese censors have banned a lot of content before, these bans don’t always stand the test of time. Although “time travel” was apparently banned by Chinese censors from film and TV in 2011, it continues to appear in TV programs and movies.

The move is certainly contrary to a number of recent court decisions favoring gay rights. Last year, a Beijing court ruled against “homosexual conversion therapy“, a practice that proponents say can remove homosexual tendencies by electric shock treatment. Additionally, a Chinese court agreed to hear a case last summer from a Chinese student who is suing the Ministry of Education after having found school library books (written after 2001) that describe homosexuality as a “mental disorder”.

China has increasingly looked to its entertainment industry to serve as moral leaders to its people. Just after actors were banned from smoking onscreen, a number of acting agencies decided to blacklist any actor caught consuming illegal drugs. And before it banned gay relationships from China’s TV screens, CARFT empowered itself with the ability to force individuals or organizations who violate its guidelines to issue public apologies.

Charles Liu

The Nanfang's Senior Editor