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Despite the widespread criticism that was heaped atop Game of Thrones' eighth and final season on HBO, showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are obviously still a hot commodity in Hollywood for adapting the fantasy epic that became one of the most popular shows on TV during its run. Thus, it was a natural move for them to jump to an exclusive deal with Netflix, but their first announced project – an adaptation of Liu Cixin's The Three-Body Problem series – has already faced some backlash from Republican senators, and one in particular has more recently slammed the streaming giant's defensive statement on the matter.
The main problem that the aforementioned senators have raised complaints over is author Liu Cixin's publicly stated viewpoints about China's treatment of its Uyghur population, which is mostly made up of those in the Muslim faith. It's estimated that around one million Uyghurs have been gathered and confined in internment camps in Xinjiang, which has been seen as a highly controversial method of forced assimilation. Back in 2019, Liu defended the Chinese government in an interview by saying it was 'helping their economy and trying to lift them out of power,' which are commonly cited opinions that aren't necessarily backed up by facts.
The five senators – including Marsha Blackburn, Martha McSally, Rick Scott, Kevin Cramer, and Thom Tillis – complained about the Three-Body Problem adaptation through a letter to Netflix that called execs out for working with Liu Cixin and for seeming to turn a blind eye to what they deep to be human rights abuses. Netflix's response to that letter made clear that the company did not agree with those comments, and that Liu is merely the novels' author and not the creator of the TV adaptation. And here's how Blackburn responded to Netflix's defense, according to Variety:
I don’t think anyone who actually read the letter would be satisfied with Netflix’s assertion that Mr. Liu 'is the author of the books, not the creator of the series.' Just because he is not the creator, does not mean he doesn’t have a role in its production. Many authors whose books are adapted into live-action series are involved in the adaptation or production of their works on screen. What will Mr. Liu’s role be? Also, Netflix argues that his comments are entirely unrelated to his book or the show. It is notable that Mr. Liu would hold such execrable views of Uyghurs while in his book he so vividly documents the plight of struggling artists and the alienation to which they were subjected. Despite the sympathy he appears to have for the characters in his book, he does not extend that same feeling to the minority in his own country. Either Liu is an apologist for crimes against Uyghurs or he is caving to the Chinese Communist Party’s doctrine.
For comparison, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss definitely worked with George R.R. Martin throughout putting Game of Thrones together as a TV show. Not just in the earliest stages, but right up through the final season. Granted, part of that communication was due to Martin's novel series not being finished yet, but even if it had been, the showrunners would have still likely leaned on the author for insights and secrets. One could easily assume that Benioff and Weiss were also planning on talking to Liu about the streaming adaptation of The Three-Body Prolem, but it'll be hard to make that happen now without kicking up some dirt.
Marsha Blackburn also added the below:
The bottom line of my letter was that Mr. Liu, when given a platform, chooses to utilize that platform to promote genocidal rhetoric and fictions generated by the CCP. Netflix is choosing to widen Mr. Liu’s platform by adapting his original works into a series for their network. The collaboration is evidence of Netflix’s complicity.
While there are no doubt many that would agree with Marsha Blackburn's statements there, the senator has also attracted her own fair share of blowback over the years for her own controversial political views. Blackburn previously agreed with President Donald Trump's ideas to put a ban on Muslim immigration. As well, she spoke out in opposition to school classes in Tennessee providing lessons on the history of Islam. (To say nothing of anti-LGBTQ votes and others.)
This isn't the first post-Game of Thrones project that has attracted shocked reactions for David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. The duo were previously crafting an alternate history drama titled Confederate, which would have taken place in a world where the U.S. Civil War did not have any clear victors. For better or worse, that project was went kaput in 2019 and was officially cancelled. But will the same thing happen with The Three-Body Problem?
For now, stay tuned to CinemaBlend for more updates on this issue and more, and head to our Fall 2020 TV premiere schedule to see what new and returning shows are on the way soon.