This week, China Central Television (CCTV) made an uncharacteristically bold move: It aired the first season pilot of Game of Thrones, the popular HBO fantasy drama renowned for gruesome violence and graphic sex scenes. The move is likely part of a broader plan to help boost the audience for the country’s state-run traditional television stations, whose notoriously dull, heavily regulated programming has lost viewers to video streaming sites.
Yet CCTV evidently had to hew to rules on “public morality” that the Community Party endorses; the pilot episode of the first season, “Winter is Coming” is about 11 minutes shorter than HBO’s and is dubbed in Mandarin.
If the internet response to CCTV’s tidied-up Game of Thrones is anything to go by, viewers are way too used to watching both pirated and licensed versions of foreign shows to swallow Communist Party–approved drama.
“So they’ve cut about a quarter of all the fight scenes, then a quarter of the nude scenes,” one blogger wrote (paywall) after the show’s first episode was shown over the weekend. “I guess that’s okay if all you want to watch is a medieval European castle documentary.”
Other commentators saw the show’s broadcast as another facet of Chinese censorship. By editing and voicing over the original show, authorities can make sure the show still “communicates socialist values,” one commentator wrote on the discussion forum Zhihu the day after CCTV broadcast and posted Game of Thrones episodes online.