“People should not be afraid of their governments - governments should be afraid of their people.”
That's the message behind the 2005 film V for Vendetta. Set in 2020, the film depicts a revolt against a fictional police state. Characters include a masked revolutionary, a young TV reporter, a dissident TV host who criticizes the government, and an evil dictator.
As reported in the Dec. 18th, 2012 The Hollywood Reporter, V for Vendetta had "been banned in China [presumably] for its advocacy for revolutions against authoritarian rule."
All that changed on Friday Dec. 14th, 2012 when "V for Vendetta was screened, with its lines dubbed into Chinese, on CCTV-6 [a Chinese government-controlled television network] at 10:07 p.m."
Does the airing of a film that has inspired real-life attacks on totalitarian regimes mark a change in China's approach to freedom of speech?
Does the state-approved screening of V for Vendetta - providing legal access to a film that has apparently already made its way into China through underground file-sharing (you can also follow this link to Made in China clothing based on the film) - mark the beginning of a new era in China's approach to controversial Western motion pictures?
While officially banned, V for Vendetta might have served as a symbol of government intolerance. Now that V for Vendetta has screened on Chinese state TV, will the Chinese market continue to open up to films with messages that might have seemed threatening to a less-confident regime?
It's fairly clear that the decision to air V for Vendetta on state TV was not an isolated mistake. Various signs point to a conscious decision by the Chinese authorities to permit this particular anti-authoritarian fantasy - allowing V for Vendatta to air uncut as an approved form of entertainment. For example, Chinese CC-TV6's official Weibo account [Weibo is the Chinese micro-blogging platform that is often compared to Twitter, which is not available to the mainland Chinese] ran "a message offering a synopsis of the film so that “film buffs could have some fun”." As The Hollywood Reporter observed: "This post – which both acknowledges the existence of the film and points to a rough sketch of the story – was itself a breakthrough, as information of the film has been kept off officially-sanctioned internet search portals such as Douban or Baidu.'
No one can predict where the pop culture of China will go - but the screening of V for Vendetta on state-run TV suggests that familiar stereotypes of censorious and humorless Chinese bureaucrats may soon need an overhaul...
"The sight of the film’s titular anarchist delivering a televised speech about “censors and systems of surveillance coercing your conformity and soliciting your submission” on CCTV-6, China Central Television’s movie channel – has set the Chinese blogosphere ablaze, with contributors expressing awe watching the film on official television and speculating whether this points to a more varied and less restricted media landscape."