So the NYT reports that the content of many American films we watch isn’t being determined solely by creative forces. It turns out the Chinese government practically has a veto over any lines, narratives or characters it takes a disliking to. Obviously, the implicit threat is a refusal to allow the film into the Chinese market, which could be a financial problem when we’re talking about a market of over a billion people. Unsurprisingly, that incentive is ensuring financial forces trump pure artistic motives and render the legal protections of expression that Hollywood enjoys obsolete.
Just consider a handful of the absurd examples we learn of:
Another prominent film, Ang Lee’s “Life of Pi,” which was nominated last week for 11 Academy Awards, made it through the process mostly unscathed, but got some pushback over a line in which a character declared that “religion is darkness.”
“They modified the translation a little, for fear of provoking religious people,” Mr. Lee said.
Mr. Cohen’s “Mummy” film, which was shot throughout China in 2007, was a historical fantasy about an evil emperor who is magically resurrected by foreign adventurers in 1946. The script was preapproved by China’s censorship board with only token changes — the emperor’s name had to be fictionalized, for instance. The censors also cautioned that the ancient ruler should not resemble Mao Zedong.
Even “Kung Fu Panda” provoked objections by some Chinese, who saw the lead character as profaning a nationally revered animal.
It would be funnier if it wasn’t so ludicrous and pathetic. I know these are minor alterations of little significance, but the principle should be enough to piss us off. I just resent the idea that anything we see in the Free World is even slightly coloured by the whims of moronic Chinese morality police.
So how about a better idea: instead of bowing down to their insane demands, and instead of waiting for leaks to the papers for us to learn of them, why doesn’t Hollywood as an industry collectively agree to make no further concessions to the Chinese government? Do we really think it would want to have to explain to its citizens why major American movies aren’t reaching Chinese cinemas, when anyone could find out so easily what the embarrassing truth would be? They’d soon cave in.
But if not, and Hollywood continues to lobby and pander and embrace their contributions, let’s see the CPC added in big bold letters to the ending credits of every film they’ve pissed on.