Stories about Chinese media censorship aren’t usually great breaking news. It’s a little strange but maybe not surprising that the State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television banned television shows about time travel from primetime earlier this year. Their reasoning behind this move is a bit surprising, though. They claim that a string of child suicides, swindles, and other tragic situations are being inspired or caused by the shows.
According to the authorities and groups like China Youth and Children Research Center, shows about time travel (and, it seems, science fiction and fantasy in general) have too great a potential to influence the behavior of children and young people who are “rich in curiosity but poor in judgment”. On one end of the spectrum, they cite stories where young women have been swindled out of the equivalent of hundreds of US dollars online by people who claimed they could fulfill time travel dreams. These are certainly unfortunate, but hardly cause for a large-scale ban. On the other end, however, are truly sad stories like the two schoolgirls who committed killed themselves and, in their suicide notes, indicated that they believed suicide would allow them to travel back in time.
People’s Daily Online says that television shows focusing on time travel – particularly the ones where modern characters fall in love with royalty – have increased in popularity in recent years, but it doesn’t really get into where suicide comes into play. There have been a few instances of a time travel-by-suicide theme in Western pop culture (such as the UK Life on Mars) or suicide cults who thought they would connect with cosmic beings, but it’s hardly a commonly visited line of thought. Is there some widespread habit in Chinese television of stories where people commit suicide to travel through time that we’ve missed?