Associate Professor of East Asian Languages Zhuoyi Wang recently gave invited lectures about the Chinese sci-fi film, The Wandering Earth (2019). Presentations took place at Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, Beijing Normal University, and Beijing Keystone Academy. He was also invited to present a webinar about the film for members of the Chinese Language Teachers Association, USA.
According to Wang, The Wandering Earth achieved a breakthrough for Chinese sci-fi, a genre that had seen little development in the U.S., due in part to the dominance of Hollywood blockbusters. Released in February and still shown in theaters, the film has reaped a worldwide box office bonanza of $700 million. Along with its phenomenal success, the film has also generated heated discussions and debates on its political message and artistic merit.
In his talks, Wang viewed The Wandering Earth in the light of planetarianism, an idea proposed by Masao Miyoshi for literary studies. Opposing neo-liberal division, exclusion, repression, and egocentric consumption, planetarianism calls for a new sense and organization of human totality that are truly global and inclusive of all.
Wang analyzed how The Wandering Earth, in its imagination of a total environmental disaster and a global unity fighting for survival of humanity and the earth, departs from the Hollywood sci-fi formula of individual saviors toward the ideal of planetarianism.
The talks also pointed out the many textual cracks left in the film by the links and tensions between Hollywood and Chinese cinemas, China’s socialist past and neo-liberal present, globalism and nationalism, environmentalism and anthropocentrism, as well as ethics of solidarity and sacrifice. Wang said that due to these cracks, the film’s salutary turn to planetarianism is nonetheless filled with paradoxical understanding of the ecological relationships among individuals, human totality, and the homeland earth.