Chinese viewers divided over Netflix’s ‘3 Body Problem’

Chinese viewers divided over Netflix’s ‘3 Body Problem’
via Netflix
Ryan General
18 days ago
Netflix’s “3 Body Problem,” the adaptation of Chinese sci-fi hit “The Three-Body Problem,” has sparked intense online debate in China.
Key points:
  • Chinese viewers are divided over Netflix’s adaptation of the acclaimed sci-fi novel “The Three-Body Problem,” particularly its portrayal of China’s Cultural Revolution, reported Reuters.
  • Viewers express mixed feelings about the adaptation’s departure from its Chinese roots, with some praising its international cast while others critique its relocation of the story to the UK. Social media users are also comparing Netflix‘s version unfavorably to Tencent‘s adaptation.
  • Some netizens also took to social media to praise the opening scene for its depiction of Chinese Cultural Revolution lynching, equating it to “woke” culture.
The details:
  • “The Three-Body Problem,” the Hugo Award-winning novel trilogy by Liu Cixin, is a global sci-fi hit and was earlier adapted to television in China by Tencent.
  • Due to Netflix’s unavailability in China, Chinese viewers are using VPNs or pirated versions to watch the Netflix series. The adaptation garnered significant attention on Chinese social media platforms, accumulating over 21 million views on Weibo within days of its premiere on March 21.
  • Some Chinese nationalists perceive the Netflix adaptation’s depiction of China’s Cultural Revolution as a deliberate attack on China’s image. Critics also accuse the adaptation of erasing Chinese elements in favor of Western-centric narratives. Meanwhile, other Chinese viewers applaud the adaptation for sharing Chinese culture with a wider audience and embracing the sci-fi genre’s international appeal.
  • Many online comments favor Tencent’s adaptation, considering it more faithful to the source material, especially in its depiction of the Cultural Revolution and focus on Chinese characters and settings. The Netflix version, like the English translation of the novel, starts with violent scenes from China’s Cultural Revolution in the 1960s. The original book buries the controversial topic in the middle, a deliberate decision Liu and publishers reportedly made to make the book less politically sensitive in China and thus more likely to pass censorship.
  • Some conservatives in the U.S. have lauded the opening scene of the Netflix show, particularly its portrayal of an elderly professor’s defiance during a Cultural Revolution struggle session. Reactions on X highlight the scene’s perceived parallels with contemporary socio-political dynamics, with statements equating it to woke culture and its purported effect on free speech.
About the show:
  • Netflix’s “3 Body Problem” features an international cast and was co-created for Netflix by acclaimed “Game of Thrones” showrunners David Benioff and DB Weiss, along with writer Alexander Woo. Their vision aimed to create a purposefully global narrative, spanning continents and cultures, reflecting the idea of a universal struggle against an existential threat.
  • The show has so far gained favorable reviews from both critics (77%) and audiences (76%) on review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes, as of this writing.
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