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"The Wandering Earth" wandering in the space of patriotism

  • The Journal of Chinese Cultural Studies
  • 2019, (46), pp.185-204
  • DOI : 10.18212/cccs.2019..46.008
  • Publisher : The Society For Chinese Cultural Studies
  • Research Area : Humanities > Chinese Language and Literature > Chinese Literature > Chinese Culture
  • Received : October 16, 2019
  • Accepted : November 17, 2019
  • Published : November 30, 2019

Kim,NamHee 1

1인천대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

Released during the lunar New Year season of 2019, “the Wandering Earth” hit great success, jumping to the second place in the box office for all films ever screened on the Chinese mainland. Regarding the film’s achievements, domestic critics highly appreciate its comparatively mature storytelling and overall verisimilar effects, regarding it as the true beginning of the Chinese SF genre. At the same time, some voiced genuine concerns about the tendency of nationalism and patriotism that recent Chinese blockbuster films seem to promote. Against this backdrop, this article explores the meaning of so-called the first Chinese SF film by looking at how discourses have been evolving on the film’s massive success. “The Wandering Earth” is set in the far future, where the solar system is in danger and all the countries get united in rescuing it under the leadership of China. The film describes the world as a cooperating whole by making the USA invisible. But in reality, “the Wandering Earth” barely excluded the existence of the USA from its production to distribution. In fact, the USA’s invisibility in the film, which comes from the China’s sense of rivalry with it, reflects the American influence in an ironic way. For example, the film connects the situation of moving the earth with China’s agrarian civilization, and this is strikingly remindful of the 1980s’ binary thinking of China’s agrarian civilization vs. Western marine civilization. Once used to criticize the backwardness and passiveness of China, this binarism is now being re-adopted to highlight the Chinese greatness and its difference with the western culture. One point that claims our attention is that this binary discourse is being reinforced in school through the curriculum. Since “the Wandering Earth” has been very popular and was included by the Chinese education ministry in the list of recommended films for elementary and middle school students, questions on the film are being asked in the school exams and ‘the exemplary answer’ is widely adopted as the only right way to view the film. In the process, without the space for plural interpretations of the China’s first SF film, its meaning is reduced simply to a text that shows well the value of Chinese traditions.

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