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China's censorship escalates as it begins censoring children movies to suit Communist Party narrative

News Agencies | Updated on: 31 August 2022, 11:21 IST
China's censorship policy.

After the netizens discovered that the ending in the Chinese version of the latest animated film 'Minions: The Rise of Gru', has been adjusted in line with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) narrative, attention has once again being drawn to China's extensive censorship efforts.

Posts on Weibo, China's Twitter-like platform, about the movie bemoaned how censors attached slideshows at the end of the movie in which the villain of the film Wild Knuckles is caught by the police and serves 20 years in jail. In an apparent allusion to Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leader Xi Jinping's three-child policy, Gru, the protagonist devotes his life to raising three children, The Singapore Post reported.

In contrast, the original ending shows the villain eluding capture and the protagonist Gru returning to a life of crime.

Chris Fenton, a veteran Hollywood executive and the author of "Feeding the Dragon," stated in an interview that it was unclear if Universal Pictures or the film's Chinese distributor was responsible for the altered finale.

Many Hollywood films that are aired in the country omit or alter important scenes. Some audiences have noticed that sometimes alternative endings depart significantly from the original.

A similar kind of omitting was done with the 1999 movie "Fight Club," which the Chinese viewers of the film discovered was missing from the version aired on domestic streaming service Tencent Video last year. As an alternative, a screenplay for the show stated the police "rapidly found out the whole scheme and apprehended all culprits, effectively stopping the bomb from exploding."

Giving out the two reasons behind Universal following the restrictions, Fenton said that access to the Chinese box office is the first motivation and the second one is Beijing's brand-new Universal Studios theme park. Five state-run enterprises own the remaining 70 per cent of the park through the Beijing Shouhuan Cultural Tourism Investment Company, with the other 30 per cent owned by NBC Universal's Universal Parks & Resorts.

Many individuals started the US-China collaborative business model with the idea of gaining access to a market that was often restricted to American goods and services, according to Fenton.

Fenton stated, "We truly made our own worst enemies over there. In order to get access, we downplayed our convictions, ideals, and other characteristics that made us Americans and members of the democratic world. And I believe that many of us are now regretting it."

He further said that the risk-reward analysis for Western companies doing business in China is evolving, emphasizing the fact that China is not going to start opening again anytime soon. He claimed that under Xi's leadership, Western businesses, particularly those in the cultural sectors like cinema, are being forced to capitulate more and more to Party dictates, according to The Singapore Post.

Fenton added that "[Xi] is governing that nation with an iron grip." "He and his regime are becoming even more reclusive as a result of the widespread hostility toward them throughout the globe."

"I just don't see an opening just occurring that's going to improve things for Hollywood or really any company that's wanting to reach that market without doing some substantial kowtowing to that administration," the author said.

Chiness censors have done the same thing with the Hollywood film "Logan", where over 10 minutes from the movie were removed citing that the fight scenes were deemed too violent.

The censorship is not limited to theatrical releases, as Chinese streaming services have also reportedly cut or altered older films.

When "Friends" was relaunched on Chinese streaming platforms this year, video site Bilibili excised references to the ex-wife of main character Ross being a lesbian.

And in "Lord of War," a film starring Nicolas Cage as a fictional Ukrainian arms smuggler, audiences are told the main character receives life imprisonment instead of being freed, according to the Washington Post.


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First published: 31 August 2022, 11:21 IST