Fan Bing Bing, China’s premier A-list star, caused an online uproar on Weibo with her latest sex scene in “Lady of the Dynasty,” demonstrating China’s gradual loosening of mainstream media censorship. In this particular scene, Fan’s character was riding a horse when Lai’s character comes up and rips her clothing off, and begins making passionate love to her mid horse-straddle.
Photos of the erotic horseback love-scene, dubbed “Ma zhen” or 马震 by netizens as well as speculations on animal safety and possible jealousy reactions from Fan’s lover began flooding the Weibo cyberspace. According to online media reports, there was worry about what the added weight of 123kg from both leads would do to the horse.
Netizens also began speculating whether or not Fan’s boyfriend Li Chen would be appalled or jealous that his lover was caught on camera in such an unsavory position. Li Chen played along and asked nonchalantly “Who is ‘ma zhen’?”, feigning ignorance. Speaking on behalf of her lover, Fan stated that she and Li share a mutual understanding and respect for the demands of their work. Fan also defended her work as a professional actress stating that there is no such thing as “too much” when it comes to their call of her duty on set.
Fan Bing Bing’s “Ma zhen” sex scene can be seen as a step forward in conservative Chinese Mainstream Media, which has traditionally censored out any and all scenes that are deemed “too racy” for the public.
Just seven years ago, Chinese actress Tang Wei was banned from Chinese media for the intense nature of her sex scene in Ang Lee’s film “Lust, Caustion” (2008). Tang’s television commercials, print ads, and all feature content were ordered by the China State Administration of Radio Film and Television (SARFT) to be pulled immediately, and award shows in China were advised to exclude Tang and the producer’s of “Lust, Caution” from their guest lists.
Years later, Fan Bing Bing’s “Ma Zhen” scene in mainstream Chinese media can be seen as a step forward in a culture that has historically regarded sex as taboo and has censored out any content considered to be too salacious for public viewing.
This is not to say, however, that Chinese media censorship as loosened up completely. The Uniqlo scandal last month in July still has the Chinese censorship bureau reeling, as the heads of social media giants, Weibo and Tencent (owner of Wechat), were summoned to “further improve their social responsibility awareness and cooperate with the government’s ongoing investigations.
China’s Communist Party oversees a vast censorship system, dubbed the Great Firewall, that aggressively blocks sites or snuffs out content and commentary that is pornographic, violent or deemed politically sensitive. Popular Western social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are not accessible in Mainland China and several news organizations such as the New York times, The Wall Street Journal, and Bloomberg have accused Beijing of blocking access to their websites on a number of occasions in the past.
It seems that as Chinese mainstream television media is beginning to loosen up, Chinese social media is being more censored, as digital space is becoming more relevant to the newer generation and more often a space for discussion and controversy.