Published in ARY News, Aug 8th, 2018
BEJING: Who’s afraid of Winnie the Pooh? The Chinese government, apparently.
Chinese censors have banned the release of Christopher Robin, a new film adaptation of AA Milne’s beloved story about Winnie the Pooh, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
The Winnie the Pooh character has become a lighthearted way for people across China to mock their president, Xi Jinping, but it seems the government doesn’t find the joke very funny.
It started when Xi visited the US in 2013, and an image of Xi and then President Barack Obama walking together spurred comparisons to Winnie – a portly Xi – walking with Tigger, a lanky Obama.
Xi was again compared to the fictional bear in 2014 during a meeting with Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, who took on the part of the pessimistic, gloomy donkey, Eeyore.
As comparisons grew and the meme spread online, censors began erasing the images which mocked Xi. The website of US television station HBO was blocked last month after comedian John Oliver repeatedly made fun of the Chinese president’s apparent sensitivity over comparisons of his figure with that of Winnie. The segment also focused on China’s dismal human rights record.
Another comparison between Xi and Winnie during a military parade in 2015 became that year’s most censored image, according to Global Risk Insights. The firm said the Chinese government viewed the meme as “a serious effort to undermine the dignity of the presidential office and Xi himself”.
“Authoritarian regimes are often touchy, yet the backlash is confusing since the government is effectively squashing a potential positive, and organic, public image campaign for Xi,” the report said at the time. “Beijing’s reaction is doubly odd given the fact that Xi has made substantial efforts to create a cult of personality showing him as a benevolent ruler.”
Another reason for the film’s rejection by the authorities may be that China only allows 34 foreign films to be released in cinemas each year. That leaves Hollywood summer blockbusters, family films and contenders from across the world jockeying for a tiny number of spots.
Christopher Robin is the second Disney film to be denied a release this year, after A Wrinkle in Time was blocked, while the studio’s Ant-Man and the Wasp will open this month.