In an episode titled The War on Christmas that aired in the US in 1995, the Simpsons toy manufacturer, Zachtronix, designs a toy that perfectly mimics China’s “One Child” policy. By the time the story line aired, it would have taken only a few years for the rule to be abolished.
The rule limited couples to one child and mostly affected rural families. Zhang Jianmin, a marriage counsellor at Shanghai Fengtai Branch of the Family Planning Bureau, told Radio Free Asia that in 1980, there were over 20 million one-child families in China. By the time that the law was overturned in 2015, some were estimating the number had dropped below 200,000.
Two in three of the divorces in Hong Kong the year the episode aired went to couples with one child. Some studies also suggested that Chinese families with two children were more likely to split up, too.
It’s all changed now. The Financial Times says that in Hong Kong, two-child families are now considered “empty nesters” – they’ve become so successful, they’re able to stop having children altogether. But the one-child policy was overturned in 1993 in Hong Kong. More than 30 years later, the educational property development company that produced the “Simpsons” episode never discussed what had happened to it. So without official approval, the Chinese government never viewed it and there’s no way to know if it was ever aired in China. “The War on Christmas” has since appeared on YouTube, but no one in Hong Kong watched it.
The Simpsons is one of a number of international entertainment companies to satirise China’s one-child policy. Spike Lee shot a video from inside a dictatorship’s Palace of Eternal Peace, screened on Chinese television. Other media creators have come from more glamorous spots. Some favourite episodes include Knight Rider, based on the original 1976 American show; Once Upon a Time, based on the Disney movie; Bewitched, the popular 1960s TV show that spoofed the unpopular British import; and Rambo: First Blood Part II, a third-world knockoff of Steven Spielberg’s Rambo in 1982. None of these shows aired in China, either.
HONG KONG – DECEMBER 28: Hong Kong’s tourism chief fears the economic impact of a vote to allow pop singer Ursula Tam to perform at the Olympics opening ceremony will be devastating. The former elected leader of Hong Kong, Tung Chee-hwa, says those who object to his daughter’s concert will be blocked from watching it, and predicts that the backlash could bring down the government. “I believe there are risks and definitely still the possibility of a negative impact on the economy,” Mr Tung says. (Photo by Martin Keown/Getty Images)