Few people would probably associate British cartoon character Peppa Pig with gangster culture, but now Chinese authorities have banned videos of the popular piglet from the Chinese video app Douyin because the pig is being used as a symbol of subversion on online media.
Over the weekend, more than 30,000 videos of the pink-snouted British cartoon character promptly vanished from Douyin, according to the English-language edition of the state-owned Global Times newspaper. It hasn’t yet been confirmed who removed the content and why but as news spread online it has been widely suggested by internet users that the Chinese government is behind the move.
The British Peppa Pig show featuring the internationally known cartoon pig first started airing in China in 2015. At some point last year, a big number of young adults started co-opting the innocent cartoon as a symbol of subversion, posting tattoos and drawings of the pig, linking the works to rappers, and remaking the cartoon through their own editing and dubbing.
‘Peppa Pig is supposed to teach kids about the importance of family which is quite acceptable to the Chinese culture, but the fact that young people have turned it into something associated with a thug or a gangster, that’s totally the opposite of what Xi Jinping has wanted China to be,’ Chinese digital media expert Haiqing Yu told SBS News.
Two Peppa Pig theme parks are currently being built in China, one in Beijing and another in Shanghai. Their openings are set for 2019, the Year of the Pig in China. It’s unclear if the ban will affect the planned theme parks.
Peppa Pig is not the first cartoon character to be removed from Chinese social media: references to Winnie the Pooh are still banned on Chinese social media since the Disney character became a meme poking fun at Chinese president Xi Jinping.