Netflix’s 3 Body Problem Faces Backlash From China For Cultural Revolution Scenes

Netflix’s 3 Body Problem could be about to face a problem of its own in China thanks to the sci-fi series' opening sequence, which is set in 1966 during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Like many products of Hollywood that have come under scrutiny from China, with depictions of the Chinese people accused of being negative and damaging to the image of the country’s authorities.

3 Body Problem

3 Body Problem

Adventure

Drama

Fantasy

Release Date

March 21, 2024

Cast

Saamer Usmani with Shailene Woodley , Marlo Kelly , Jess Hong , Jovan Adepo , Rosalind Chao

Main Genre

Adventure

Seasons

1

Studio

Bighead Littlehead, Plan B Entertainment, Primitive Streak

Streaming Service(s)

Netflix

The opening scenes of 3 Body Problem see a physics professor being brutally beaten by the Communist Red Guard at Beijing university for not conforming with the ideologies of the government. This all happens under the watchful eyes of a crowd. These scenes have not landed well with viewers in China who, according to CNN, have flooded social media with a wave of “nationalist anger” aimed at the series.

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However, this is something that was most likely anticipated by the series creators, David Benioff, Dan Weiss and Alexander Woo. Back in 2022, Benioff explained that they were very aware that, unintentionally, there were many parallels between the Cultural Revolution and current times that could not be denied. He said at the time:

“We do tend to move in cycles in terms of human history, and we’re going through a certain period of the cycle right now. There are many very significant differences between the current time and the Cultural Revolution. But there are also some similarities. It was never something where we were like, ‘We should do this show because we want to make a commentary on that.’ But it is interesting that the parallels are there and are hard to ignore.”

Netflix’s Adaptation 3 Body Problem Goes Beyond the Chinese Version

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Last year, Tencent adapted 3 Body Problem into a 30-episode series in China, entitled Three-Body in English, which did not include the scenes that have caused such debate in the Netflix version. However, that scene itself is not the only aspect of the different adaptations to cause discourse on the internet.

While some have accused the Chinese Communist Party of attempting to remove the Cultural Revolution from the country’s history in popular TV shows and movies, others have slammed Netflix’s version for relocating the story to London and including a diverse cast that deviates from its original Chinese source material. For actress Rosalind Chao, who plays the adult version of Ye Wenjie in the series, the importance of an adaptation made internationally is huge when depicting parts of history that some would prefer to be forgotten. She said:

“I think it’s important to have an international version of the story. Narrow-mindedness drives me a little bit nuts. Am I OK to say that? I love that this has been made more international for a wider audience. You’ll probably get me more blacklisted in China for saying this. They don’t talk about the Revolution. It’s so ingrained not to discuss it, whereas it’s a huge part of history and the fact that it can be told here in a way that also embraces the sci-fi genre, it’s kind of exciting. It’s important for people to understand world history and what makes people the way they are.”

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