Though Disney’s “Christopher Robin” seems like the most wholesome and innocent of movies, the newly released Winnie the Pooh film has been banned from release in China. Having nothing to do with the movie’s subject matter, the banning of the film comes from a political standpoint. Government censors blocked images comparing Pooh and Xi Jinping after bloggers used the beloved children’s book character to parody the Chinese President.
The comparison began in 2013 when Xi visited the United States. An image of Xi and then president Barack Obama walking together led to an image comparison of Winnie — a portly Xi – walking with Tigger, a thin and tall Obama. In 2014, Xi was again compared to Pooh during a meeting with Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, who resembled the pessimistic and gloomy donkey, Eeyore.
As memes began to grow in number and spread online, the government began erasing images that mocked Xi. Even British comedian John Oliver joined in on the mockery by repeatedly making fun of the Chinese president’s sensitivity over comparisons of his figure with that of Winnie the Pooh.
However, the year’s most censored image was in 2015 when Xi and Pooh were being compared during a military parade. A photo of Xi standing upright in his car during the parade was compared to a children’s toy car sporting the beloved bear. The Chinese government viewed the meme as a way to undermine the dignity of the president and his office.
However, the banning of “Christopher Robin” goes beyond that of a funny meme. Being the world’s second-largest film market, China only allows 34 foreign films to be released in cinemas each year. Since 1994, the government has allowed foreign films to show in Chinese cinemas on a revenue sharing basis. Hollywood’s Big Six studios — Walt Disney, Warner Bros, Paramount, Fox, Sony, and Universal — almost exclusively produce most of the films distributed.
“Christopher Robin” is the second Disney film to be denied a release this year, after “A Wrinkle in Time” was banned from being released in theaters. On the other hand, “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Black Panther” played in China this year.
By: Maytinee Kramer