Panned by critics, Netflix’s Space Force finds a happy audience in China
The new comedy is getting glowing reviews on Douban, but some see it as propaganda painting China as a threat
(Beware: Space Force spoilers ahead.)
Space Force was created by Steve Carell and Greg Daniels, former showrunner for the hit sitcom The Office. Carell plays General Mark Naird, a character tasked with leading a new branch of the US military. The mission of the Space Force, given by an unnamed president who governs by tweeting, is to put “boots on the moon.”
One of the most widely shared scenes in China is from the end of the show’s first episode. After the US Space Force successfully launches a satellite into Earth’s orbit, Naird and his chief scientist Adrian Mallory (John Malkovich) sit together and watch the light of the satellite moving through the sky. Then they notice a second spark, and Naird watches through a telescope as a Chinese spacecraft approaches the satellite and disconnects its two solar panels.
The scene has been uploaded to Bilibili multiple times, with the more popular clips drawing hundreds of thousands of views and hundreds of comments. Bullet comments flying across the screen show many of the people watching the clips find the scene extremely amusing.
Others also poke fun at the Chinese spacecraft, which has the country's flag all over its body.
Two other scenes from the show that have drawn hundreds of thousands of views on Bilibili are of a chimpanzee astronaut joining a Chinese spacecraft and a conflict between the US and China on the Moon. Many commenters also say they find it funny that China is now depicted as the biggest rival to the US in American pop culture.
But not all Chinese netizens find the show amusing. Like many critics, some Chinese viewers also think the show falls flat. Some enraged viewers go a step further, saying the show’s real intention is to promote the idea that China is a threat and amplify stereotypes of Chinese people.
Similar comments of caution also drew dozens, and sometimes hundreds, of likes. But they were often met by other users saying people shouldn’t take a TV show so seriously.
“Little Pink must be infuriated,” said one user on Douban who gave the show four out of five stars. Little Pink, or xiaofenhong in Chinese, is a term used to refer to young online nationalists who regularly defend China from any form of criticism.
The user added, “But compared to trolling China, it also trolls itself with full force.”