Chinese Television Is Blurring Men’s Ears

Television viewers in China have noticed that a censoring blurred effect has started to appear on the earlobes of a number of male television personalities, CNN reports. Though state media has not made an official directive regarding the newly taboo lobes, it appears to be directed at men wearing earrings.

This follows a similar prohibition introduced last year, in which Chinese media regulators banned stations from showing actors with tattoos. The guidance falls in line with the broader state policy regarding representations of “hip hop culture, sub-culture and immoral culture,” according to the regulators.

This particular shift was first noticed broadly as viewers of iQivi, a streaming service similar to Netflix, began seeing a widespread blurring of male earlobes in popular programming. Many took to Weibo (a Chinese Twitter alternative) to criticize the move, with more than 88,000 users sharing messages under the hashtag #MaleTVStarsCantWearEarrings.

Many analysts attribute such decisions to the government’s goal of combating Western influence on China’s popular media.

“This is a consistent policy [to] purify their pop culture from the Western influence and strengthening the Chinese characteristics of manhood,” said Grace Leung, who is a professor at the University of Hong Kong’s School of Journalism and Communications.

Censorship of this kind fits a general pattern of tight control buy the Chinese government. Prior to the earlier ban on tattooed television personalities and now, presumably, the prohibition on male earrings, Chinese state media began waging a robust campaign to curtail homosexual content. LGBQT content was largely deemed abnormal behavior inappropriate for Chinese television, often criticized in the same context as incest and sexual abuse.

“China is still a strong patriarchal society which has a distinctive male and female hierarchy in many local communities,” said Leung.

All broadcast television in China is owned by the state and controlled by strong censorship and strict regulations. Chinese media is typically reviewed and approved by the local Communist party. As more media shifts to digital platforms, including internet television and streaming services, regulations have evolved in order to maintain oversight of content.

The growth of social media in recent years, however, has continued to provide a platform for the Chinese public to express their dissatisfaction and frustration with government censorship.

A number of news organizations inside and outside of China have reached out to regulators for clarification on the recent male earlobe blurs. As of yet, no official statement has been shared.