Chinese censors struggle to keep up with Megan Thee Stallion at Coachella

Society & Culture

“Hang in there, Puxi people! This song is for you!”

China’s censors are notoriously prudish, and in recent years have only grown more conservative in what they’ll allow the public to see.

But they really shouldn’t have tried to cover up Megan Thee Stallion.

Over the weekend, the American rap star (real name Megan Pete) delivered her debut Coachella performance in a desert valley in southern California, an hour-long set filled with her characteristic bravura and sexual vibes.

In China, the Saturday performance was livestreamed on WeChat, the country’s largest social media app (Coachella never announced an official partnership, so the stream was likely illegal). Things were going well until Megan Thee Stallion began performing “WAP,” the Cardi B mega-hit in which she is featured.

As Megan began twerking in her revealing outfit, WeChat’s censors tried to use black strips and boxes to cover up the rapper. They…did not succeed:

At some point, it looked like whoever was behind the controls may have been working to the beat of the music:

Alas, eventually they said, “F— it,” and basically blacked out the screen.

The rare sight of Chinese censors doing their job in real-time, and failing, instantly became a subject of ridicule for people watching. “This is actually drawing more attention to the parts that WeChat doesn’t want us to see,” one person wrote. Another WeChat user compared the situation to whack-a-mole, telling the censors to “give up” because “keeping up with the dancers” was impossible.

Complicating the situation was the song itself: Viewers gleefully translated the provocative lyrics of “WAP” into Chinese and typed them in the comments. When the main hook of the song came on — “Yeah, you fucking with some wet-ass pussy” (which is what WAP stands for) — commenters began to adapt the line to the lockdown situation in Shanghai, since “pussy” sounds like the Shanghai district of Puxi. “Hang in there, Puxi people! This song is for you!” one person joked.

Eventually, the censors threw in the towel and shuttered the livestream.

Although Chinese society at large is slowly becoming more accepting of sexual expression, the country’s media regulators are not with the times. Under China’s increasingly moralistic content control rules, a dizzying array of topics and visual elements are considered “inappropriate” for TV and films, including same-sex relationships, nudity, and even cleavage.

Given Chinese censors’ long-held discomfort with women expressing their sexuality, the block of Megan Thee Stallion was not surprising. But as many internet users pointed out, it was strangely cathartic to see WeChat censors being thrown into a state of panic at the hands — and other body parts — of one of the most empowering female rap artists today. “This is so ridiculous that I couldn’t stop laughing,” one Weibo user wrote.