How popular is the SBS drama “Man from the Stars” in China? According to U.S. news outlet The Washington Post, enough to make Chinese officials ponder over their own country’s cultural power.
On a article broadly covering how the Chinese cultural ego has been injured by “Man from the Stars'” popularity, the author William Wan cites a meeting held by one committee of China’s political advisory body (called the CPPCC) that spent a morning “bemoaning why China can’t make a show as good and as big of a hit.” He also quotes one CPPCC member as saying, “It is more than just a Korean soap opera. It hurts our cultural dignity.”
On one level, the grievance over the high popularity of a Korean drama in China is exasperated by long-standing regional rivalries, suggests the author. Wang Qishan, the head of the Central Commission of Discipline Inspection, is quoted as saying, “The core and soul of the Korean [soap] opera is a distillation of traditional Chinese culture.” In a country that, William Wan writes, “has long considered itself the source of East Asian culture, the domination of Japanese comics and Korean soap operas in Chinese pop culture challenges that view.”
On another level, the Washington Post writer suggests that what is really at the center of this grievance is China’s own frustration with its industry regulations and censorship. He cites a meeting of delegates from the Chinese culture and entertainment industry where some blamed the country’s lack of a popular hit on its heavy censorship.
It seems “Man from the Stars” is undeniably a craze in China, with beer and fried chicken meals appearing on restaurants’ menus, Kim Soo Hyun being sent a private jet to fly over for his appearance on a show, and more than 2.5 billion views of the drama online. Who knew a drama about an alien stranded on earth for 400 years can send a country into some soul-searching?