Home Uncategorized Why Netflix’s 3 Body Problem Is Facing International Controversy

Why Netflix’s 3 Body Problem Is Facing International Controversy


Look away now, “No politics in my art!” crowd. In one of the clearest demonstrations yet of how storytelling is inherently tied together with socio-political concerns, writer Liu Cixin had no recourse but to design “The Three-Body Problem” with censorship in mind. That required a little cat-and-mouse game in sneaking one of his most incendiary concepts past cultural gatekeepers in his native China: an unflinching depiction of the country’s “Cultural Revolution.”

Much like in English translations of the book, Netflix’s “3 Body Problem” begins in 1966 Beijing amid a so-called “struggle session.” Whipped into a frenzy by revolutionary leader Mao Zedong, students and other impressionable people sought to forcibly uproot established scholars, scientists, and other “bourgeois” intellectuals from positions of governmental influence. As accurately captured by Cixin, this involved harrowing anti-science demonstrations at universities and other cultural centers in which those accused of being capitalist sympathizers were dragged in front of angry mobs and forced to denounce their views. In an inspired choice, the author grounded the entire cosmic story of “The Three-Body Problem” in the fallout of one especially bloody rally, wherein main character Ye Wenjie (portrayed in the series by Zine Tseng for the younger version of the character and Rosalind Chao for the older) witnesses her father’s brutal murder that would eventually motivate the most decisive act in (fictionalized) human history.

In its original publication, however, Cixin essentially had to hide this crucial chapter much later on in the hopes that it would slip past government censors. Historically, China has sought to downplay (at best) or outright deny (at worst) the facts behind this decade of violent upheaval. Pointedly setting a seminal work of literature during this historical event was itself a political statement … and, unsurprisingly, put any future adaptation in the crosshairs.

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