Hollywood seems to have a difficult time dealing with Asia. Mickey Rooney as a Japanese man! Who could have imagined that taping your eyelids and wearing buck toothed dentures to play a living stereotype would be in poor taste?
We’ve moved way beyond that now. These days, whenever a story calls for an Asian character, Hollywood just casts a white actor and tells everyone that they’re Celtic. It’s called whitewashing—taking ethnic characters and making them white. And who cares what anyone thinks? You can see more on that here.
But at the same time, Hollywood cares very much about what China thinks. And that’s because China is poised to become the world’s largest movie market soon. At a predicted 8.3 billion dollars for this year, China’s box office is already number two, just a few billion away from catching up with the US.
The Communist Party of China only allows 34 foreign films a year. And they’re subject to strict censorship requirements. So that means, before the next Hollywood blockbuster goes into production, studios go to great lengths to ensure their movies won’t hurt the feelings of the Chinese censors.
Like when Angelina Jolie was promoting Maleficent in Shanghai. A reporter asked who’s her favorite Chinese director. She named Ang Lee. And then said, “I am not sure if you consider Ang Lee Chinese; he’s Taiwanese.” Well that made everyone pretty ang-ry, because that seemed to imply that Taiwan was somehow a separate entity from Mainland China, just because it has its own government, currency, and Olympic team. One Weibo user even called Jolie a “deranged Taiwan independence supporter.” Disney was concerned this could affect their movies chances in China. So they made Jolie go on a publicity tour in Shanghai.
Moral of the story, Maleficent made 48 million dollars in China. Money is a moral, right?
But it’s not just celebrities that need to be careful. Everyone watching an American movie now needs to be careful. Because there’s a pretty good chance that the next hit blockbuster you watch will have been changed to appease the Chinese Communist Party.
And here are 5 Hollywood movies that already happened to.
Number 5: Great Wall
The biggest production in China’s film making history! It’s set 1000 years in the past, and Matt Damon helps save China from monsters.
But there’s more to the story than whitewashing. The movie is produced mainly by Legendary Entertainment, the people who brought you Jurassic World and Interstellar. Legendary is an American company, but it was bought earlier this year by the Dalian Wanda Group, the same Chinese company that owns the biggest movie chain the world.
Will the Great Wall finally give the Chinese government the soft power movie they crave? I just hope they give us Matt Damon back.
Number 4: Iron Man 3
So when the main villain—or is he?—is based on an offensive Chinese stereotype, you can understand why that would be changed.
But Iron Man 3 takes it a step further. They added a four minute new scene featuring two famous Chinese actors saving Tony Stark’s life. And don’t forget the product placement! Enjoy Yili Milk today!
Disney also partnered with Beijing-based DMG Entertainment. Not only did that help Iron Man 3 break past the 34 foreign film limit, it also meant Disney got a bigger share of the profits—40% of the profits instead of just 25%. Yeah, the Chinese regime normally only lets foreign movies keep 25% of the box office revenue.
Robert Downey Jr, the actor who plays Iron Man, also went to Beijing for a press conference. “I’m interested in all things Chinese,” he said, “and I live a very Chinese life in America.” By which I can only assume he means working for 5 dollars a day, dealing with corrupt local officials, and staying away from political issues to avoid having his organs harvested.
Number 3: Independence Day: Resurgence
How do you make the sequel to the highest grossing movie of 1996 a hit in a country it was never shown in? Well, for one, get rid of that whole “America saves the world” theme.
Instead, why not have China and the US work together as part of the Earth Space Defense to defeat the aliens. Be sure to throw in Hong Kong pop star Angelababy. And let’s not forget Moon Milk, a competitor to the Yili Milk from Iron Man 3. In fact, Independence Day Resurgence features so much product placement that even my favorite state-run media the Global Times makes fun of it.
On the plus side, this level of teamwork did help get the movie a same-day release in China and the US. Pretty rare, since usually there’s a long censorship process involved. Fortunately, they just made censorship part of the script writing.
Number 2: World War Z
The great thing about this movie is, even if you read the book, it will still seem fresh! Because it’s an entirely different story. Spoilers for the book:
The zombie virus that sweeps the world begins in China. It’s spread through the Chinese military’s black market organ trade. The Chinese regime covers it up by launching a war on Taiwan. Civil war breaks out as top officials mobilize the army to protect their own skin, leaving the rest of the country to burn. That only ends when a rogue Chinese nuclear submarine nukes the Politburo Standing Committee.
Now, spoilers for the movie: there are none. It’s already been spoiled because literally nothing in the book is in the film.
This was all done in the hopes of getting a China release—which they did not get. I mean, nuke the Politburo! Plus, the Chinese regime has had problems with Brad Pitt ever since he was in that movie about that separatist leader, the wolf in monk’s robes, the Dalai Lama.
So yeah, that movie was never going to get a piece of the Chinese market.
Number 1: Transformers: Age of Extinction
Not just the toys are made in China. Transformers: Age of Extinction was a co-production between Paramount pictures, a Chinese company Jiaflix Enterprises, and, get this, state-run newscaster and Communist Party mouthpiece CCTV! That means the Chinese Communist Party was directly involved.
And you might just be able to make out their fingerprints on the film. For instance, the villains of the film are the American government, specifically the CIA. That hurts. One US authority puts a gun to the hero’s daughter head to get him to reveal information. The main villain is manipulating the US government. His appeal to “national security” is really just a cover for a secret project he’s got with a big corporation that will make him rich. And he’s willing to kill for it.
As popular entertainment magazine Variety wrote, “My first reaction to “Age of Extinction” was that it was an astonishingly unpatriotic film. But I was wrong. ‘Transformers: Age of Extinction’ is a very patriotic film. It’s just Chinese patriotism on the screen, not American.”
Because how do Chinese authorities come off? Well, when aliens attack Hong Kong, who you gonna call? The Chinese central government! And then the Chinese defense minister comes along and vows to protect Hong Kong.
Just a few months after the movie came out, tens of thousands of Hong Kong protesters spoke out against that very same Chinese “central government” for destroying their freedoms and way of life.
Then there’s yet another scene, in which the film’s stars hock Chinese milk.Even when running from CIA assassins, there’s always time to stop for Shuhua milk, made by our old friends at Yili!
And then you have Mark Wahlberg stopping to use the ATM at his favorite bank—China Construction Bank—in Texas.
And what did they get for teaming up with the Chinese government to make anti-American propaganda? 300 million dollars, surpassing China’s previous top grossing movie, Avatar. Moral of the story is—money!
In fact, Paramount must really have enjoyed the experience working with the Chinese regime. That might be why the Dalian Wanda Group is trying to buy a 1 billion dollar stake to 49% of Paramount.
But this all is just the tip of the iceberg. Check out our upcoming episode where we dig deeper into how China’s cultural takeover of Hollywood is part of the Communist Party’s larger plans to influence and surpass the US.
So what do you think of the silver screen turning red! Leave your comments below.