Over the years, several Hollywood films have been banned in China for failing to meet the country’s censorship standards. However, it seems that the tides are changing as big-budget Hollywood flicks actually decide to forego releases in the Chinese markets
New Delhi: Chinese censorship of Hollywood films started a long time ago. One of the first films reportedly banned in China was 1923’s The Ten Commandments, a religious silent film that was banned in the country under the category of “superstitious films” because of its religious nature.
The 1925 film Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ and 1931 Frankenstein would follow suit. Over the years, many films have been banned in China for a variety of reasons – from depicting a Chinese flag to casting actors to filmmakers not winning favor with the country’s government.
Most recently, the 29th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), Taika Waititi-directed Thor: Love and Thunder, Chris Hemsworth’s fourth solo appearance as God of Thunder (the first for an MCU superhero), one of which was a long line of films unlikely to receive a release date in the territory due to the inclusion of LGBTQ+ characters and scenes.
Reports suggest the film is unlikely to be approved by Chinese censorship due to plot points such as Korg’s two fathers, his on-screen moment with a different Kronan, and references to Valkyrie being bisexual.
However, Thor: Love and Thunder is not the only film that has come under the wrath of Chinese censorship in recent years. Movies such as Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and Eternals were also not released in Mainland China. The films were expected to have great appeal in the Chinese market due to their ethnic bias in the plot, but they were never released. There have been reports that Simu Liu, the superhero of Shang-Chi and Eternals director Chloe Zhao, has been given the cold shoulder for allegedly criticizing the country’s government years ago.
But when did it all start?
While China has maintained strict censorship of film content for years, in his 2022 book America Second, How America’s Elites are making China Stronger, Isaac Stone Fish revealed how the Chinese government ordered a complete rewrite of James Bond’s Tomorrow Never Dies Has. The original storyline involved China taking over Hong Kong. Following government objections, the producers scrapped the script and ordered a complete rewrite.
The Bond change marked a turning point in Sino-American censorship, with calls for change becoming the norm.
But are things still the same? It seems like a wind of change has blown over Hollywood, and many films have chosen to go against Beijing’s appeasement when it comes to releasing films in China. The Top Gun: Maverick Tom Cruise star, who is by far one of the most successful in his 2019 trailer, removed the Taiwanese and Japanese flags from Cruise’s bomber jacket – to appease Beijing. However, when investor Tencent TCEHY reportedly exited, the symbol was reapplied to Maverick’s iconic jacket.
After the change, Paramount executives no longer expected a release in China. A similar move was taken by Disney and Pixar, who were asked by China to remove a brief same-sex kissing scene from “Lightyear.” Disney rejected the cut. Similarly, Sony faced flak in China when they were asked by Chinese regulators to cut out or minimize the appearance of the Statue of Liberty in Spider-Man: No Way Home. The studio reportedly refused, making it the third big-budget film in recent years not to be released in China.
Sony has sacrificed a lot of money and given away millions in additional revenue by fighting back against Chinese censorship. Chinese censorship, which required the removal of the iconic Statue of Liberty so Sony could present it in China, also highlighted just how aggressive Chinese bullying of the US film industry had become.
But not anymore
Industry experts believe China’s influence has declined, largely because the Chinese film market isn’t what it used to be. In recent months, movie studios have begun to rethink their strategies, as Chris Fenton, former president of DMG Entertainment and author of the book “Feeding the Dragon: Inside the Trillion-Dollar Dilemma Facing Hollywood, the NBA, and American Business,” explained There Is a 100 percent shift in the way Hollywood views Chinese censorship.
China is reportedly no longer a big-money guarantee, and while it may have been the world’s biggest film market in 2020, the favor has once again turned to the US. US cinemas open in full boom post-COVID, even as China maintains strict “zero-COVID” policy.
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