Television antiheros have been popular in places like the United States decades, but in China, where the government sits in final judgment on the moral correctness of television content, Zhen is something new and potentially threatening. Chinese censors have not moved to quash Empress in the Palace: the show is an “historical drama,” a permitted typology unlike “time travel” dramas, which are banned for their “frivolous” treatment of history.The above quotes are from a report on supervillaness Zhen Huan's wild popularity in China and the headaches this is giving Chinese authorities. The report, written for the Tea Leaf Nation e-zine by Jianyu Hou and titled China’s Favorite Villainess: Why Chinese TV Viewers Can’t Get Enough of a Qing-era Concubine, outlines Zhen's adventures and raises these fun questions: Does Zhen represent an "ethical race to the bottom," or a blunt statement on the harshest realities of human society, or an editorial on the hypocrisy of China's government?
Zhen is anything but frivolous -- but to a Communist Party trying to promote positivity, she may simply be too nasty.
Not being Chinese, and not having seen the series, I can't offer an opinion. But I have read Gone With the Wind. Is Scarlett O'Hara a creature of the Antebellum South, or the Civil War, or was she always hell on wheels? I suppose she's all those things, but she is also a Survivor, in my view, and one I hope would reside in my breast under the worst circumstances. Maybe many people think the same way. Maybe that's her perennial and universal appeal.