Social Trauma

I had a conversation about television programs in China, and the thing that I noted was the abundance of war-related serial dramas on many channels. There was always something about the Chinese Civil War between the Liberation Army and the Nationalists, or some other movie about World War II with the Japanese. And for the first time, the Communist soldiers are portrayed as the good guys-soldiers who are liberating the poor farmers from the rich aristocratic Nationalists. Outside of China, it has always been the opposite, and sometimes I wonder who’s telling the truth, although it probably doesn’t matter. People are people, whatever political ideology they subscribe to.

War still seems so relevant here, to this nation and its culture. After all, it was formed out of one. It’s almost like the people have some sort of a collective trauma, with the television dramas replaying their history again and again in many forms, making it hard for them to forget about their past. Everything links back to history, and the lessons of the past inform their actions and motivations. In my hotel they have some American channels like HBO, and the contrast is so great. American channels feature more about lifestyle and the latest gossip in Hollywood. I had just come from New York too and war always seemed like a distant idea situated in Iraq. But here, it is everywhere. It is in the cracks, in the people, in the images. China has had such a long history of wars, dynasty after dynasty, and even when the last dynasty ended. Do they always broadcast such war-themed dramas to remind themselves where they come from and how they struggled to get to where they are today? Or are people generally interested in the stories of the past and thus the abundance of such programs?

And then they have Taiwanese dramas in China too, and some from Hong Kong, and again, the contrast is great. The Chinese programs always seem so serious and so proper, always about something political or social, whereas those from Taiwan and Hong Kong would be about high school romance or celebrity rumours. It’s interesting and ironic to flip one channel and see headlines about Andy Lau’s marriage, and then flip another to see the Chinese government trying to help farmers with their irrigation problems.

Such is the state of the Chinese civilization today.

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