Band in China
|"Band in China"|
|South Park episode|
|Episode no.||Season 23|
|Directed by||Trey Parker|
|Written by||Trey Parker|
|Featured music||"Useless Sacrifice" by Death Decline|
"Second Skin" by Dying Fetus
|Original air date||October 2, 2019|
"Band in China" is the second episode of the twenty-third season of the American animated television series South Park. The 299th episode overall of the series, it premiered on Comedy Central in the United States on October 2, 2019. The episode parodies media censorship in China, and the manner in which the American entertainment industry purposefully compromises its productions to avoid it.
As a result of the episode's criticism of its practices, the Chinese government banned the series entirely in the country, a move which in turn drew criticism from the creators of the show.
As fourth grader Stan Marsh composes a song for his new death metal band, Crimson Dawn, his father Randy announces to the family that he plans to travel to China to expand the family's Tegridy Farms marijuana business. Upon boarding a plane to China, Randy sees many other people, including NBA players and characters belonging to Disney, are also going there to expand their businesses. He is arrested in China when marijuana is discovered in his luggage. Randy is imprisoned where he witnesses the practice of summary execution, and is subjected to re-education through labor, torture, and Communist Party re-education.
During a Crimson Dawn rehearsal, the band is visited by a music producer who wants to make a biographical film, or "biopic" of the band, as traditional music resources such as albums and tours are no longer profitable. Stan, who desperately wants to leave his farm home, is thrilled. During their first meeting, when the film's structure is discussed, the band learns that certain aspects of the band's lives will have to be edited out in order to make the film marketable in China due to their censorship of the media.
In prison, Randy meets fellow prisoners Winnie the Pooh and Piglet, who are there because they were banned in China after internet memes comparing Xi Jinping to Disney's version of Pooh became popular. When Randy is brought before a court, he criticizes the Chinese government for the way it treats its prisoners, accusing them of lacking "tegridy" (his term for integrity). When Mickey Mouse learns of Randy's criticism, he angrily confronts Randy over the Chinese business he is losing because of it, but Randy holds firm on his beliefs that business should not be conducted on the basis of intimidation, and expresses his marijuana import idea to him. When Mickey and Randy make their case to the Chinese officials, their offer is rejected, which Mickey attributes to the Winnie the Pooh matter. Randy responds by using honey to lure Pooh to a secluded alley and strangling him to death as Piglet watches in horror.
During filming on the Crimson Dawn movie, the censorship continues to the point that Chinese officials are on set to approve its content. The producer asks Stan to rewrite the script "from his heart", but Stan is frustrated by a Chinese censor standing over his shoulder as he writes in his bedroom, erasing passages he disapproves of. Later with his bandmates, Stan realizes that the only film that will even be accepted in China is something "vanilla and cheesy". Stan's best friend, Kyle Broflovski, disembarks from a bus with Eric Cartman following their stay in an ICE detention center in the previous episode. The friends' reunion inspires Stan to reform his previous band Fingerbang for a new biopic, but he changes his mind during filming, saying that no matter how badly he wishes to leave the farm, he cannot bring himself to compromise for China, and commenting that anyone who does is worthless. Meanwhile, Tegridy Weed has become legal in China. As a dump truck unloads a load of cash at the farm during a family meal, Stan asks Randy why he is covered in honey and blood. When Randy admits that he murdered Pooh, Stan calmly leaves the table to write another song about his father.
Reception and controversy
John Hugar with The A.V. Club gave the episode a grade of "B", calling it a "strong episode." He compared Parker and Stone's decision to critique the role that the Chinese government plays in the American entertainment industry to past instances in which they displayed similar boldness in their choice of target, as when they commented on media depictions of the prophet Muhammad in two past episodes. Hugar thought the arrest Randy suffers as a result of his failure to research marijuana laws in China was among the series' funniest moments. He also lauded the reveal of Crimson Dawn's music and the use of Mickey Mouse, both to defuse tense scenes and as a key part of the story's resolution.
Forbes contributor Dani Di Placido said the episode was "hilarious, and depressingly insightful," and pointed to the contrast between by Stan's decision and Randy's choice to put profit above principle as the best example of that.
Joe Matar, writing in Den of Geek, was less favorable, giving the episode a rating of 2 out of 5 stars; he thought that Trey Parker's tying Stan and Randy's relationship issues to the episode's greater ethical questions was intelligent writing, but thought the episode overall was marred by "lazy plotting and tired shock humor."
Matthew Rozsa of Salon felt the episode expressed valid criticism about the manner in which the American entertainment industry compromises itself to suit China's government, and enjoyed the way in which it illustrated this point.
In response to the episode's criticism of the Chinese government, South Park has been entirely banned in China, including on its streaming services and social media platforms. In response to the ban, South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone mocked China with a faux apology and a reference to a then-ongoing controversy surrounding the National Basketball Association (NBA) and Daryl Morey's comments regarding the 2019 Hong Kong protests. On the night of October 8, 2019, the episode was screened on a busy street in Hong Kong's Sham Shui Po District as a form of protest.
- Pasbani, Robert (October 3, 2019). "Yes, That Was DYING FETUS on South Park Last Night". Metal Injection. Retrieved October 3, 2019.
- "Episode 2302 'Band in China' Press Release" (Press release). Comedy Central. September 30, 2019. Archived from the original on October 3, 2019. Retrieved September 30, 2019.
- Parker, Ryan (October 2, 2019). "'South Park' Episode Mocks Hollywood for Shaping Stories to Please China". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on October 3, 2019. Retrieved October 5, 2019.
- Sharf, Zack (October 7, 2019). "'South Park' Removed From Chinese Internet After Critical 'Band in China' Episode". IndieWire. Archived from the original on October 10, 2019. Retrieved October 7, 2019.
- McDonell, Stephen (July 17, 2017). "Why China censors banned Winnie the Pooh". BBC News. Archived from the original on January 8, 2019. Retrieved October 5, 2019.
- Hugar, John (October 3, 2019). "South Park takes some hard shots at China as Randy grows his weed business". The A.V. Club. Archived from the original on October 3, 2019.
- Di Placido, Dani (October 3, 2019). "'South Park' Review: 'Band In China' Mocks Hollywood's Addiction To Chinese Box Office". Forbes. Archived from the original on October 3, 2019.
- Matar, Joe (October 3, 2019). "South Park Season 23 Episode 2 Review: Band in China". Den of Geek. Archived from the original on October 4, 2019.
- Rozsa, Matthew (October 3, 2019). "'South Park' takes on Hollywood's pandering to Chinese censorship with sharp words, weak jokes". Salon. Archived from the original on October 4, 2019. Retrieved October 5, 2019.
- Brzeski, Patrick; Parker, Ryan (7 October 2019). "'South Park' Scrubbed From Chinese Internet After Critical Episode". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on October 10, 2019. Retrieved 7 October 2019.
- Gstalter, Morgan (October 7, 2019). "'South Park' banned from Chinese internet after critical episode: report". The Hill. Archived from the original on October 10, 2019. Retrieved October 7, 2019.
- Otterson, Joe (October 7, 2019). "'South Park' Creators Respond to China Censorship: 'Xi Doesn't Look Just Like Winnie the Pooh at All'". Variety. Archived from the original on October 10, 2019. Retrieved October 7, 2019.
- Wallis, Adam (October 10, 2019). "'South Park' episode banned in China screened on Hong Kong street". Global News. Archived from the original on October 10, 2019. Retrieved October 10, 2019.
- Parker, Ryan; Chu, Karen (October 9, 2019). "Notorious 'South Park' China Episode Screened on the Streets of Hong Kong". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on October 10, 2019. Retrieved October 10, 2019.
- Official website
- "Band in China" on IMDb
- "The Return of Fingerbang - 'Band in China' - s23e02 - South Park". South Park Studios/YouTube. October 3, 2019.