Science, Society and the Arts Presents: Yolanda Yang ‘18 Meet Yolanda Yang ‘18, who has traveled to China and back to discover the true purpose of cinematic censorship. Yang and study partner Savannah Kimble ’18 conducted research on this project in 2017 under the auspices of a grant from the Endeavor Foundation.
“SSA is a unique class for all of us to learn some interesting knowledge that we haven’t had a chance to learn before.”
Science, Society, and the Arts is a multi-disciplinary conference where Washington and Lee undergraduates and law students present their academic achievements before an audience of their peers and the faculty. Through the conference, students, faculty and staff alike have the opportunity to explore new topics and discuss new ideas. Conference participants share their work via oral presentations, traditional academic conference-style panels, poster sessions, artistic shows, creative performances, or various other methods.
Even though SSA has ended, you can still enjoy these stories about the many interesting projects and performances being presented by the students.
Cultures in Transition: Chinese Cinematic Experience
Q: Can you describe your project?
By comparing movies shown in Chinese cinemas and their original versions shown in the U.S., we have proven that several films are censored by the Chinese authorized institution, SARFT. We summarized main types of censorship and tried to discover the possible reasons behind them. Besides, we also interviewed local Chinese people and professors in Beijing, collecting their views of the movie censorship policies; thus, by observing how the policies have influenced people’s lives currently we could possibly predict the changes of the policies in the future.
Q: What about the topic made you explore it?
During our freshman year, Savannah Kimble ’18 and I went to see “Kingsman: The Secret Service” at the Lexington theater. Some time later, I chatted with one of my friends back in China, and he told me that he watched the Kingsman movie in a Chinese theater, but the famous “church massacre” scene was cut (almost four minutes long). I brought it up to Savannah, and both of us thought that this was an interesting point of cultural difference, and months later that conversation inspired us to a good project that combines many of our interests (politics, literature, psychology, culture and film).
Q: What was the most interesting thing you have learned while working on this project?
I found it was very interesting that so many Chinese elements were thrown in Hollywood movies. It’s fascinating to think about Chinese economic development leading Hollywood to cater to Chinese audiences. It’s also interesting for me to see how foreign film directors choose to depict Chinese culture in their works
Q: What was the biggest challenge you faced?
We planned to study the political reason behind the censorship, but in reality, we found that the movies we chose and had access to limited our ability to look closely at political aspects. What’s more, some Chinese versions of some movies we initially expected to be censored — such as “Titanic” and “Transformers” — were not censored at all. As a result, our findings were less centered around censorship than we expected. However, even the fact that the government does not censor as much as was expected provides interesting insight into political and cultural changes due to globalization.
Q. What insight — or insights — did you gain during the research period?
We proved that film clipping is common; we learned about the shift in Chinese cultural values over the years and censors becoming more lenient; we found the growth of Chinese economy reflected on global film industry; and we realized that film industry has grown into an important business in China by a fast speed.
More details will be provided at my presentation!
Q: What is your favorite part of creating, researching, or developing this project?
Personally, it was very exciting to introduce Savannah to my home and my homeland. It was the first time I brought my American friend back home, and it gave me a chance to consider my cultural identity again with a more comprehensive and mature view. I am so glad that I could have this special experience with my very best friend.
Q: What does SSA mean to you?
It provides me a broad platform to present my project and findings to a larger audience, and it gives me the chance to encounter and communicate with people who share similar interests and ideas with me. I am looking forward to showing my project and sharing my culture with W&L community.
Q. Why is SSA — considering science, society, and arts together — important to this campus?
SSA is a precious opportunity for the W&L community members to interact and share with one another. I think it’s especially eye-opening and inspiring to see our peers’ work. In some respects, SSA is a unique class for all of us to learn some interesting knowledge that we haven’t had a chance to learn before.