This is a cautionary tale for the ages. We already told you the Chinese government is putting limitations on TV shows that depict time travel, but now it seems the popular stories of escapism may have cost two young girls their lives.
Chinese news website the People's Daily Online reports that two fifth-grade classmates committed suicide recently in hopes they would be able to travel back in time, as well as into space.
Time-travel stories have become very popular in China recently, though the government believes the content is "questionable" and is pushing an air-time ban to discourage children from watching the programs.
One of the girls reportedly decided to commit suicide after she lost a remote control for a door at her house and didn't want to get into trouble with her parents. Her friend decided to join her, in hopes the two would travel back in time to the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) to film a documentary, or travel to space in the future. The girls left a suicide note explaining the plan before jumping into a pool and drowning themselves.
"Schoolchildren are rich in curiosity but poor in judgment, so this kind of tragedy happens in every era," China Youth and Children Research Center Deputy Director Sun Yunxiao. said "I have heard of children jumping from high buildings after watching an actor flying in a magic show. This kind of imitative behavior is in the nature of young children, but it's very dangerous. So we should give some sort of warning for children on TV programs."
Though the story is heartbreaking no matter how you slice it, the report has been challenged by some who say China is exaggerating the time-travel connection to use the tragedy as propaganda.
"People's Daily Online is the website of People's Daily, which until recently described itself as 'the official newspaper of the Communist Party of China'—it now offers a more circumspect description: 'one of the world's top ten newspapers,'" Jezabel writer Anna North notes. "It's distinctly possible that Huang and China Daily were under pressure from the government to paint the girls' suicide as a direct result of the evil influence of time travel. The question remains: why?"
What do you think? Is this just a very sad story of misguided youth, or is something more nefarious afoot?