Last week, I had the opportunity for a unique cultural experience, I got to go to my first Chinese Ballet. It was an important and very popular number called The Red Detachment of Women. After I saw the production, I wanted to run right home and right a blog all about it, but for one of the few times in my life, I was absolutely speechless. It is only now, after some reflection, that I am able to properly explain what I witnessed.
Allow me to provide a bit of context and history first. The Red Detachment of Women, was the ballet shown to Richard Nixon during his visit to China in 1972, and it is one of the "eight model plays" which were the only operas or ballets allowed during China during the Cultural Revolution. Therefore, it is very, very pro-communist. Do not believe me? Well here is a scene from the film version of the movie. Pay extra attention to the oh-so-subtle Party overtones at around the one minute mark.
If you had trouble reading between the lines, understand one thing: she loves communism, and communism loves her.
The basic plot synopsis, is that the main character, Wu Qinghua, escapes from being a slave by an evil lord. She stumbles upon the Red Army (and in particular their female detachment) and joins them. They strike back against the lord, save the day, and continue to march on to victory.
Moral of the story: Workers of the world always unite.
At first viewing, myself and my friends were absolutely blown away by the shear blatancy of the Red-love-in. However, after doing some thought, we came to an important conclusion. It is not that different than most American films, especially from that time frame.
So many Western movies, even today, are centred around the idea of Freedom, and Democracy. The villains are Russian, Chinese, Arabic, or Latino, and the good guy comes in to free the day, and allow America to prosper over all.
Don't believe me? Watch Saving Private Ryan or any John Wayne movie.
My point is that proganda pervades entertainment in any culture, at any time, however it is always easiest to see it in different places and different times. So obviously, the question must remain, what exactly are people trying to get us to think right now?
I have some ideas, but I have a feeling that future generations will have a much clearer picture. Until then, I think that I'll continue criticizing these happy soliders.
Until next time,