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Arts & Life

Waging 'The Good Fight' Against Censorship


Earlier this week, viewers of the CBS drama "The Good Fight" were greeted by an 8 1/2-second-long image. It read, CBS has censored this content. Content was a piece of animation, along with a song, that took critical aim at Chinese censorship, often of American products, and the importance of a Chinese market to U.S. businesses, sometimes at the expense of U.S. values.

The animator who brought that bit to life is Steve Angel. He joins us now from Toronto. Mr. Angel, thanks so much for being with us.

STEVE ANGEL: My pleasure. Happy to talk to you.

SIMON: And I should disclose I'm a special contributor to "CBS Sunday Morning," a production of CBS News. Since we can't see that scene for ourselves, could you describe it to us?

ANGEL: What it is is sort of a - like a visual laundry list of all the sensitive imagery that's sort of banned in China. It's a little bit like George Carlin's seven words you can't say on the radio (ph) kind of thing. So there's visual allusions to freeing Tibet and Falun Gong and Tiananmen Square and Winnie the Pooh.

They're very sensitive about Winnie the Pooh because Xi Jinping, the leader, has been likened to him. And so I ended up drawing Xi Jinping as Winnie the Pooh. As we all know, Winnie the Pooh doesn't wear pants, so I think that might have been where things got a little bit testy.

SIMON: I mean, you do work to be seen. How do you feel about it not being seen?

ANGEL: I got to say, I'm - personally, I'm kind of bummed out by it. But I'm a commercial artist, and I'm used to having stuff chopped out. I think that it's been pretty amazing - the reaction that Robert and Michelle King had to the whole thing because they...

SIMON: They are the showrunners.

ANGEL: That's right. And they were really, really supportive of it. They really liked it. So that made me feel good. And they really stood up for it. And they basically said, if you don't show it, then we're walking off the show. So the compromise was that a title card was put up, which, you know, may, in the end, have the same impact, or even greater impact than the spot itself. But, of course, personally, I would've liked people to have seen it.

SIMON: Speaking of your animation, they said, we had concerns with some subject matter in the episode's animated short. This is the creative solution that we agreed upon with the producers. So you're a professional. Do you think this is a creative solution?

ANGEL: You know what? I don't know. I have to be kind of careful with what I say. I can kind of sympathize in a lot of ways with the decision they made 'cause I run my own business, and I'm pretty sort of pragmatic about, you know, decisions that are made. But I think it's just really kind of disappointing, if anything. And I think people would've really liked it.

SIMON: Mr. Angel, I wonder, as an animator, someone in the creative arts, how you feel about this. There are people who say, look; let the news division tell the story of what's going on in China. You know, the entertainment division ought to stay away from that.

ANGEL: Well, I think, you know, entertainment is a really useful way to inform people. Like, you know, when you think about, you know, culture critics who say they're first and foremost entertainers, they're also educating the public in a really thoughtful way. And I think one of the things about presenting things in sort of an entertaining, funny, like, manner is that it kind of enters the consciousness more readily than just a dry, kind of talking-head kind of scenario that you may see on the nightly news.

SIMON: This is the age of the Internet.

ANGEL: Indeed.

SIMON: We'll be able to see it there at some point, won't we?

ANGEL: Likely. I mean, my hope is that CBS will change their mind and see fit to release it. And, you know, if anything, like, they love publicity. This is getting a lot of publicity

SIMON: Yeah.

ANGEL: And airing it finally may be - may get more attention than they would've gotten in the first place, had they not had this whole thing not happen. But, ultimately, just for me, personally, I would just like people to see 'cause it's pretty funny.

SIMON: Steve Angel is an animator based in Toronto. Thanks so much for speaking with us.

ANGEL: My pleasure.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.