David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, the brain trust behind six good seasons of Game of Thrones and two seasons of Game of Thrones that felt like having your brain pulled out through your nostrils, are now working on an adaptation of The Three-Body Problem. A reference to the obstacles physicists face when trying to arrange a threesome, The Three-Body Problem is a Chinese sci-fi trilogy that's massive in its home country, was the first Asian work to win a Hugo award, and has been praised by everyone from George R.R. Martin to Barack Obama. It's kind of a big deal, and so hot takes that Benioff and Weiss will be unable to handle the material have rolled in like clockwork.
While that concern is understandable -- it's a ludicrously complicated series full of big ideas and long payoffs -- the source material might play to Benioff and Weiss' strengths in that it's a completed trilogy, with an ending and everything. Remember, Game of Thrones was a critically lauded phenomenon before they ran out of material to adapt and careened their speeding freight train into a geographically impossible ditch. But I have a different concern: even if B&W, as we'll call them, nail it, is this the series we want right now?
See, The Three Body-Problem is written by Liu Cixin, and to say that he's parroted government talking points would be a disservice to the bird species. Most notably, he defended China's mass internment of Uyghurs to the New Yorker, arguing that they would be out "hacking away at bodies at train stations" if the government wasn't "helping" them. That "help" has involved intimidation, mass surveillance, secret trials, and the internment of an estimated one million people in camps where they're beaten until they renounce their religion, among other fun times.
Now, maybe Cixin really believes this, or maybe he's just saying whatever will protect him and his family back home. I've called Ted Bundy "misunderstood" to get out of moving furniture, I'm in no position to judge. But The Three-Body Problem, without getting into spoilers because we'd be here all day if we did, is still a series where the cold-hearted realpolitik of authoritarian rule solves problems that liberal democracies concerned with human rights don't have the stomach to handle.
Again, The Three-Body Problem is a sprawling epic, and it's unfair to write the whole thing off as Communist propaganda like websites with Eagle and Patriot in their names will probably be doing in due time. China and sci-fi have a complicated relationship that people much smarter than I have written about but, in short, while there's some leeway for criticism (Cixin, after some negotiation with his publisher, was able to slam the Cultural Revolution that banned science fiction), books ultimately need the approval of government censors, and some of China's most interesting science fiction is therefore officially unavailable in China itself.
But what Cixin really believes is irrelevant, because we're here to talk about what the intricate nuances of geopolitics mean for you, the person watching Netflix because it's embarrassing to eat an entire bag of Cool Ranch Doritos in grim silence. And are you currently in the mood for a dark, social Darwinist struggle for survival? One where the men primarily exist to be philosophy output machines and the weak feminine ways of women cause problems for humanity? Made by the guys who recently looked at America, a country where white supremacism is on the rise, and said, "a drama about a modern Confederacy sounds fun" until the idea was mocked into oblivion?
So I'm not worried that The Three-Body Problem is too weird or complicated for B&W to tackle. I'm worried that a cold, dark, impersonal story is the last thing anyone wants after dealing with COVID, and that a look at the upside of crushing authority is the last thing anyone wants after (or while) dealing with Trump. I'm worried that the creators who read the Game of Thrones books and decided their TV show would only be prestigious if they added more torture and murdered prostitutes will succeed but completely bum me out in doing so.
Maybe I'm wrong and the series will be fine. But, if nothing else, you should prepare yourself for the Ben Shapiros and Dinesh D'Souzas of the world to pump out exhausting screeds about how Netflix is in bed with the Chinese Communist Party because that's what their outrage roulette wheels will favor for a while. None of us want that, right?
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