Film has always been an instrument for pushing back against media censorship. The need is less visible and more subtle in America than it was during the years of the Hays Code (see This Film is Not Yet Rated, HU DVD 2414), but in other countries, overt suppression of creative content continues to be the norm. In one of the most audacious examples, China continues to prohibit depictions of same-sex relationships in movies and television. (This is an equality issue the country has long struggled with, having only effectively decriminalized same-sex relationships in 1997.)
So it comes as a major victory that, this year, China will release its first commercial film about a same-sex relationship. Although the promotional materials for Seek McCartney seemingly downplay the romantic aspect of the film, this way of sneaking in socially taboo content is a classic subversion of censorship laws, like the decades of “curious” characters in film.
It’s unclear if this is the beginning of a trend – an interviewee in the linked Quartz article above sees the censorship process in China as too unstable to depend on – but at the least, it is a testament to film’s continued social power.