There’s been a lot of media attention given to the fact that Hollywood films like Looper, Cloud Atlas, and Skyfall all underwent significant cuts and alterations at the hands of Chinese producers before being screened in China, but a recent article from The Atlantic challenges the idea that the so-called Chinese censorship is all bad. Writer Inkoo Kang suggests that Chinese influence on Hollywood could actually lead to two very positive outcomes.
The first is that China’s growing involvement in the American film industry may mean more screen time and better roles for Asian actors (those living in America as well as in China). Kang points out that Chinese investment in Hollywood films means that the foreign producers have grounds to demand that Asian characters be written into scripts, or to simply choose to fund projects that already include them. The Atlantic cites the Breakfast at Tiffany’s level of racism and ethnic caricatures that continue to crop up in contemporary movies like Men in Black III, explaining that input from China may result in a decrease of xenophobic portrayals of Asian characters in American films—a second positive effect of this type of outside influence.
Kang reminds readers that America’s hold on popular culture is in no danger of weakening and that decreasing stereotypes and reducing “simplistic portrayals of Asian characters onscreen” can only have a positive effect on the industry (and perhaps lead to some better films, too). And it isn’t as though Hollywood’s artistes aren’t already compromising their vision when, for example, they put cans of Pepsi in characters’ hands (because hey, they’ve got bills to pay!). Is corporate money somehow safer than the yuan? Kang also points to the US military’s interest in promoting a pro-war message through films like Battleship and Zero Dark Thirty, a partnership that Movieline has dubbed the “military-entertainment complex.” Even without the influence of the Chinese, your typical Hollywood fare is far from being considered “Art with a capital A,” as Kang puts it.
So while the censorship of film, art, and—perhaps most critically—the internet that goes on in China is a very valid concern, China’s involvement in Hollywood’s business might not be anything to get up in arms over—according to Kang, it’s pretty much business as usual.