China, Censorship and Movies

The Chinese have been having a say in U.S. movies, and Hollywood studios have gone along, says a report from NPR’s Shanghai based correspondent Frank Langfitt. Scenes from Iron Man 3 and Mission Impossible III were changed so that the Chinese would not be portrayed in a negative light. Ultimately the officials who have a say so go back to the wish of the Communist party. It’s not surprising, the Chinese are going to look out for their best interest. Of course Hollywood studios are no different, they too are acting in a way that will safeguard their best interest, in this instance benefit their bottom lines. Where does that leave the average consumer either

in the U.S. or elsewhere? So far the studios’ compromises have been minimal, for example changing the nationality of a villain making sure he/she is not Chinese. When the plot demands a villain, it almost never matters where the villain comes from. In one instance in Iron Man 3 where a scene was added, it was minor, the way we would add a please or sorry to pacify someone or keep from offending them. As much concern as it may seem that a foreign power should influence a private corporation, the practice may have an upside. China is a big market for any studio, and is slated to be even bigger since in the near future Chinese audiences will outnumber North American ones. Economic ties create interdependence and interdependence builds bridges, just as bridges set the stage for better international relations. Carrying the happy scenario further, one could say that better international relations could foster the kind of understanding which ultimately keep us from deepening what divides us. However, if the representatives of the Chinese Communist Party were to dictate what kind of movie to make or how a plot should unfold in order to sustain their own view of the world, the happy scenario would have to succumb to a reality check, and whether or not it would deepen what divides us would depend on how the studios would then choose to respond. Meanwhile what’s happening may be more positive than it first appears.