Warrior of Thunder aka Leiting Zhanjian, a Chinese World War II drama, was yanked from the air and online streaming services on Monday after state-run media criticized it for being "a departure from historical reality". The criticism called out the show's soldier heroes sporting fancy 21st Century haircuts with gel and the fancy villa they were living in while fighting the Japanese Army during the most brutal part of the War.
On Sunday, an editorial in the influential state-run newspaper People's Daily panned the series' depiction of the Second Sino-Japanese War — or the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression, as it's called in the show and much of China. The paper was not impressed with the way the show used actors who looked more like members of a boy band and cheesy tropes more suited to modern romantic idol dramas.
"It's fine to consider young people's habits and use innovative means of expression in television dramas, but respect for history must be a precondition," the editorial insisted.
In "Warrior of Thunder," the Communist soldier heroes, members of the real-life Eighth Route Army commandeered a luxury villa for their base of operations and hang out with glamourous hospital nurses who wear dresses and patent-leather shoes at a time when supplies and luxuries were scarce. The men's hair was pop idol-perfect and obviously held in place with product that were definitely not available during that time.
Critics have compared "Warrior of Thunder" with "Drawing Sword," a much more popular WWII TV series from 2005 that more faithfully portrayed the realities of war. In the latter show, soldiers' uniforms are dirty, their accommodations spartan, and nobody looked like they belonged in a 21st Century boy band.
In a now-deleted Weibo post Monday, the production team behind Warrior of Thunder defended the show and their decision to cast young actors for major roles. They said the coffee and cigars the heroes indulged in during downtime were commonly consumed during that time period. Their statement did not, however, address the editorial's criticism of hairstyles and the villa.
"In the early stages of creating (the series), staff conducted lots of preliminary research, and the main storylines of the show stand up to historical scrutiny," the producers' statement said. They did not mention how much research was done on hair products. Chinese audiences posted online that they applauded the show being yanked because the actors did not deserve to have this on the air to besmirch their resumés.
The Second Sino-Japanese War has inspired numerous historical dramas in China, though some have been criticised as unrealistic or even "vulgar." WWII TV shows and movies continue to be a popular genre in China, serving as anti-Japanese propaganda that never really went away in Chinese media and pop culture. The Japanese are always villains and monsters while the Chinese are heroic in their sacrifice in defending the country from brutal Japanese invaders. Just this summer The 800, the first Chinese blockbuster shot entirely on IMAX cameras on a US$80 million budget, earned US$473 million at the Chinese box office alone.