Not that China has a spotless record when it comes to women or anything, but that’s not the reason why you won’t be able to see Paul Feig’s all-female Ghostbusters reboot in the world’s second-largest film market this weekend. Or any time soon—it’s been denied a theatrical release in the country. Apparently, China really is afraid of ghosts.
At least, its official censorship guidelines prohibit the showing of films that “promote cults or superstition,” a holdover from the days when the Communist Party and its strictly secular ideology kept a tight hold on Chinese media. Things are looser now, although the majority of Chinese horror films are still made in Hong Kong, where the (technical) ban on ghosts and ghouls doesn’t exist. Still, occasionally Chinese censors cite the obscure provision as a reason why an American blockbuster that contains semi-realistic specters can’t play in China. (Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest was banned for the same reason in 2006.)
Sony even tried to work around the restriction by changing the film’s Chinese title from 捉鬼敢死队 (lit. Ghost Catcher Dare Die Team) to 超能敢死队 (lit. Super Power Dare Die Team) for the reboot, but the move apparently didn’t work. (The original Ghostbusters is available in China, but never played there theatrically.)
However, if you ask the Chinese censors themselves, they say the reason for the ban has nothing to do with being big old Communist scaredy cats at all. They just think Chinese people don’t give a shit. “It’s been confirmed that Ghostbusters won’t be coming to China, because they think it’s not really that attractive to Chinese audiences,” a Chinese executive tells The Hollywood Reporter. “Most of the Chinese audience didn’t see the first and second movies, so they don’t think there’s much market for it here.” So, by that logic, China had no childhood?