China has always been something of a mystery to people in the West. When Marco Polo first visited the Orient, he returned with tales so outlandish that many people thought he’d made everything up, not least because he probably did.
Still, in recent memory, China has gone from being a communist backwater filled with peasant farmers to an economic juggernaut. This speed at which this has happened has left the western world baffled, and desperately trying to figure out Chinese culture.
Predictably, Chinese culture behaves a lot like you’d expect a group of peasant farmers who’d won the lottery to behave; a whole nation of people with a laissez-fair attitude to restraint, not to mention laws and any semblance of sanity.
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Rather than acting like adults and hoping China will grow out of its awkward teenage phase, many in the West have decided that the writing is on the wall, and that Shanghai will end up ruling us all. Therefore, it’s best to get with the (probably) winning team and pander as much as humanly possible – the recently released, critically panned and universally ignored Red Dawn remake, for example, was edited in post-production to make the Communist nation that invades the US into North Korea, for fear that the Chinese would be offended by their portrayal as the bad guys. The video game “Homefront” made the exact same move, for the exact same reasons.
China, meanwhile, is a little less sensitive when it comes to offending (or blatantly, shoddily ripping off) other cultures.
A brilliant recent example is an advert for the Guangzhou-based medicine Kang Zhi Ba, which is designed to treat urinary infections like gonorrhea.
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In this advert, a very, very obvious Iron Man rip-off turns up to save a family from gonorrhea attack, at least according to reports. The Iron Man knock-off is startlingly obvious, but the rest of the plot is a mystery to solely-English-speaking audiences. Ironically, rumour has it that Iron Man 3 was itself edited in places to appeal to Chinese audiences.
In fairness, you can understand Iron Man being the logical choice for this ad – he’s the only member of the Avengers who’s likely to have a season ticket to the clap clinic. If you’re going to rip off a hero to deal with STIs, you might as well go with Tony Stark, a man who is only a beard and a battle suit away from being Quagmire from Family Guy.
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Still, quite why an entire family needs rescuing from an STD on a rooftop requires more explaining than a fifteen-second advert can really manage, unless the Chinese language is staggeringly concise. Why does the little kid have a urinary infection?! Do Chinese roofs give everyone an STI? Does Chinese Iron Man spend all his time on sexual health matters, or does he fight crime, too?! Why does Chinese Iron Man’s mask have slanty eyes – is it racist if it was done by a Chinese designer?!
The answers, sadly, elude us. But here’s the advert, for your viewing bafflement: