I’ve been a little wary about reporting on the whole Red Army meme, mostly because it’s super old – at least since last year, the musical version of this Red Army Long March opera has been cut and recut to match everything from Jay Chou to Michael Jackson. But you know what? Everyone in the world seems to be watching it, loving it and debating what it means for China’s youth to treat this kind of opera in this way.
Frankly, I think it means about as much as the Hitler Downfall Meme where a pivotal scene from the German movie Downfall, depicting Hitler’s final meltdown, was subbed to lampoon everything from terrible music to getting kicked off Xbox Live. Are people downplaying the Holocaust and the evilness of Hitler? Possibly. But are they actively saying that World War II shouldn’t be taken seriously? It’s highly unlikely – most of these people with the knowhow to make internet memes are pretty far removed from World War II and are more likely to equate Nazis with Zombies than a terrible and tangible reality of ethnic/homosexual/other cleansing. You could call that “cynicism” or just the march of history in the face of short attention spans.
It’s the same for the Long March, the Red Army and modern Chinese youth. Nobody is actively trying to downplay the sacrifices of thousands of people during a tumultuous time in Chinese civil history. It’s just that nobody cares.
Really, by that we mean NOBODY – not even the politburo. Though higher ups make some grandstanding about The Long March every now and then during an anniversary, don’t tell me nobody’s noticed how they’re always diverting questions about China’s past into statements about China’s future.
So you’ve got a government that doesn’t talk about its past, except to say blanket statements about how brave everybody was and to dismiss that Cultural Revolution/Great Leap Forward as Mao being “70% right, 30% wrong.”
And you’ve got a film from when Jiang Qing and her friends had a chokehold on Chinese art and culture. This musical came out in February 1976 – seven months before Mao’s death, and eight months before the Gang of Four were put on trial and scapegoated for basically the entire failure of the last ten years.
And you’ve got a whole bunch of youth who don’t really know about the whole “starving everyone to death while causing countless lives to be ruined by mob mentality” thing, except through occasional stories by tight-lipped adults. Heck, if they knew, they’d probably treat this piece of propagandistic trash even worse.
Because, really – exactly who born under those circumstances would look at PLA-sponsored operas like “长征组歌 (Long March Song)”, whose full name by the way is “红军不怕远征难——长征组歌” The Red Army is Not Afraid of Difficulties – Long March Song,” and think “Gee, this Gang of Four-era tribute sure makes me fall in love with the Red Army. I will not remix them to Justin Bieber.”?
Anyway, if you’re interested, here’s a link to someone who has put up the actual Long March Song on Tudou. Watch it and tell me how much baijiu you’d need to drink for it to inspire any sort of revolutionary fervor.