The show has been labelled sexist for downplaying the role of women in the country’s response to the virus. A CCTV drama called Heroes In Harms Way, first aired on Thursday, is about China’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Social media users have hit out at the show for downplaying Chinese women who helped in the fight against the lethal virus. President Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party have been under fire for allegedly mishandling their initial response to the pandemic.
The CCTV show is 14 episodes long, and attempts to underscore Beijing’s success in tackling the virus.
But the show has controversially rewritten the role of women in the response to the pandemic.
One scene depicts female bus drivers in Wuhan being reluctant to volunteer for medical deliveries due to family commitments.
In another scene, a male doctor told a female colleague “you’re a woman, you can just stay aside to assist”.
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Chinese viewers have taken issue with the show for downplaying women’s contributions to tackling the pandemic.
Weibo, a Chinese social media app, has seen users outraged at the show, with one user saying: “This must be the correct collective memory they want to leave.
“Please stop revising history and stop broadcasting the series.”
Another added: “This TV series really ignores female bus drivers' contributions to fighting the epidemic.
“The implicit gender discrimination in these kinds of film and TV works should be redressed.”
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More users commented savaging the show for its erasure of Chinese women, and posted #Boycott Heroes In Harms Way.
The hashtag was removed from Weibo over the weekend, but another started afterwards has since racked up over 2.2 billion views.
A Wuhan-based doctor added: “I hope this drama, if it is going to be aired overseas, could re-shoot these parts.
“The hardship the medical staff has endured should not be humiliated by such unprofessional practices.”
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Heroes in Harm's Way received a 2.4 out of 10 on the Chinese review platform Douban.
The bus scene contradicts China’s own National Health Commission, which said in March around 70 percent of 42,000 medical staff sent to Wuhan in Hubei province were women.
In April, a further 28,600 nurses were sent to Hubei, with over 90 percent being women according to a health ministry official.
CGTN, another Chinese state broadcaster, featured a female chef and driver in a feature highlighting responders to the pandemic.
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Bai Yicong, artistic director for the show, hit back at the outcry.
He said: “Interpretation is a very personal issue that the creators cannot control.”
Shi Wenxue, a Beijing-based film critic, added to the Global Times on Monday he can understand that the creators probably wanted to cut in from the angle of families and individuals rather than making a medical documentary, but the medical staff's professionalism should not be neglected.
He said: “Creators can deliver values in their works, but it does not mean that they can ignore the facts or public opinion.”