What Happened: With some of his past comments, Chinese-born actor Simu Liu has angered Chinese netizens and jeopardized the release of the Marvel film “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.” In a 2017 interview with The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), Liu described the China of his early childhood as a “third world where you have people dying of starvation,” according to The Daily Mail.
“When I was young, my parents would tell me these stories about growing up in Communist China,” he said. “They lived in the third world where you have people dying of starvation. And they felt that Canada is a place where they can live freely and give their child a better future.”
Although footage of the interview, originally published by CBC, is no longer available on its website, Chinese netizens have caught wind of the controversial interview and posted screenshots on Weibo. The reactions were swift and hostile. As such, many expect Disney to have a rude awakening when Chinese fans and Beijing censors cancel the movie.
The Jing Take: It has been reported that Hollywood censors its movies to satisfy the needs of the Chinese market. In fact, a report released by the free speech charity PEN America highlights how American film companies tailor their “casting, content, dialogue, and plotlines” to satisfy the requirements of Beijing censors. But that is not a notable phenomenon if we consider Hollywood’s dependency on China.
As per the BBC and the Hollywood Reporter, American films made $2.6 billion in China in 2019, while Disney’s “Avengers finale, Endgame” grossed $614 million. Considering this market potential, it is astonishing that Disney didn’t better monitor the web to ensure that no controversial comments would surface.
As the movie capital of America, Hollywood has to walk a thin line between satisfying “woke” culture back home and pleasing one of the world’s largest box office markets.
China’s “cancel culture” has the power to destroy million-dollar productions, superstars, agents, and producers. But too often, harmless remarks are taken out of context, and individuals are subjected to unjust punishments. This call-out phenomenon is not exclusive to Chinese media, and the equivalent does happen in the US, where progressives and republicans are trying to censor each other.
The Jing Take reports on a piece of the leading news and presents our editorial team’s analysis of the key implications for the luxury industry. In the recurring column, we analyze everything from product drops and mergers to heated debate sprouting on Chinese social media.