Ted Cruz’s Legislation Could Halt China’s Censoring of Hollywood

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Texas Senator Ted Cruz may really be on to something big.

Sen. Cruz plans to introduce legislation soon, which will address a critically important issue involving the rights of Americans, as well as folks in other nations, to enjoy entertainment product that is free from Chinese communist censorship.

The former 2016 GOP presidential candidate has, in accordance with modern congressional practice, affixed a clever acronym to his new bill, SCRIPT, which stands for the “Stopping Censorship, Restoring Integrity, Protecting Talkies” Act.

The legislation seeks to deter a current practice of Hollywood studios in which, prior to release, they submit movies to Chinese censors. The proposed law would cut off any assistance given by the Department of Defense to those film studios that allow the communist regime to alter cinematic content.

With regard to many a film and television production project, Hollywood has often requested help from the Pentagon. It has been this way for years. In each branch of the military, there is actually a liaison office that aids filmmakers with consultation, personnel, equipment, and access to military installations.

“For too long, Hollywood has been complicit in China’s censorship. The SCRIPT Act will serve as a wake-up call by forcing Hollywood studios to choose between the assistance they need from the American government and the dollars they want from China,” Sen. Cruz recently said in a statement.

The truth is Hollywood is in need of a wake-up call. China was set to surpass the U.S. box office of 2020 just before the coronavirus shutdown occurred.

Hollywood executives are well aware of the fact that the Chinese regime limits the number of foreign films that can be released annually in its country. Additionally, many Chinese companies provide considerable amounts of capital for Hollywood productions.

The Chinese regime is preoccupied with projecting a false image in order for it to continue to maintain its power. As a result it has frequently injected itself into creative aspects of American entertainment production and oftentimes altered content to fit its own agenda.

Back in 1997, Martin Scorsese’s film “Kundun” was banned, because it appeared to be sympathetic to the Dalai Lama. Scorsese and other members of the production team were literally banned by the Chinese regime from ever entering the country again.

China also took the dramatic step of banning Disney films and television shows. Disney actually apologized in 1998 for releasing “Kundun.” Eventually, though, the company was able to make a deal in 2016 to open Shanghai Disneyland.

In 2006, creators of “Mission Impossible III” were required to remove part of the film’s opening sequence in which underwear hanging on a clothesline made its “undesirable” appearance in a Tom Cruise chase scene in Shanghai.

The following year, creators of “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End,” were evidently persuaded to edit out footage of the character Chow Yun-fat, because it offended the Chinese powers that be.

In a 2012 reboot of “Red Dawn,” the original plot featured an invasion of the United States by China. The storyline was dutifully altered to depict the invading enemy as being from North Korea. Since the initial filming had already been completed, this feat was accomplished via re-shoots and digital alteration. It would be to no avail though, because the movie still ended up in the position of being unable to obtain a China release.

The James Bond 2013 installment, “Skyfall,” was released only after scenes that included Chinese police using torture tactics and prostitution occurring in Macau were edited out.

That same year the Brad Pitt film “World War Z” was banned by the regime in Beijing, because the plot of the film had the origin of the zombie outbreak kick off in China. Interestingly, Chinese officials also had a grudge against Pitt for his audaciousness in having starred in the movie “Seven Years in Tibet.”

As a condition of the China release of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” creators of the 2018 Queen biopic had to redact any references to lead singer Freddie Mercury’s sexual identity and the cause of his passing. The Chinese censors even removed part of star Rami Malek’s Oscar acceptance speech from the streaming Academy Award ceremony.

During the same year, Disney’s “Christopher Robin” was banned by Chinese censors, because activists had noted on the internet President Xi Jinping’s resemblance to Winnie the Pooh.

In the movie trailer of the yet to be released “Top Gun: Maverick,” missing from Tom Cruise’s iconic leather jacket are the Japanese and Taiwanese flag patches, which appeared on Maverick’s original coat. The patches have been replaced by two non-descript, similarly colored symbols.

Sen. Cruz’s SCRIPT Act would be a great first step in trying to address China’s egregious pattern of modifying U.S. entertainment product.

Now if only Hollywood could lend its support to the cause embodied in the legislation — that even in the entertainment industry, artistry and its dual pursuits of truth and self-determination, still reign supreme over profit.

Quentin Tarantino Pushes Back on China

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Someone in Hollywood is finally standing up to China.

Bucking the trend of the big studios, which have been routinely allowing Chinese censors to dictate movie content, Quentin Tarantino has made it clear that he will not alter his latest film, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” as Chinese officials had demanded.

As a result, China has cancelled the release of Tarantino’s fantasy-dramedy, which stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt. The homage to 1960s Hollywood had originally been scheduled to hit Chinese movie screens on October 25.

Chinese officials have not publicly revealed exactly what they found to be objectionable in the movie. Reportedly, the reason that the demand to modify came about was because of the filmmaker’s depiction of legendary martial arts practitioner and actor Bruce Lee.

Lee’s daughter Shannon had reportedly requested that the National Film Administration of China intervene over the portrayal of her father in the movie as a conceited braggart.

In a recent interview with The Wrap, Shannon inserted a broader controversy into her objections concerning the film.

“I can understand all the reasoning behind what is portrayed in the movie, I understand that the two characters are antiheroes and this is sort of like a rage fantasy of what would happen… and they’re portraying a period of time that clearly had a lot of racism and exclusion. I understand they want to make the Brad Pitt character this super bad-a** who could beat up Bruce Lee,” Shannon stated.

“But they didn’t need to treat him in the way that white Hollywood did when he was alive,” she added.

When the subject came up at a recent press conference in Moscow, Tarantino defended the depiction of Lee in the film, telling reporters the following:

“I heard him say things like that, to that effect. If people are saying, ‘Well he never said he could beat up Muhammad Ali,’ well yeah, he did. Not only did he say that, but his wife, Linda Lee, said that in her first biography I ever read… She absolutely said it. Bruce Lee was kind of an arrogant guy. The way he was talking, I didn’t just make a lot of that up.”

Media content is routinely and strictly controlled by communist bureaucrats in China as has been recently observed with the banning of Winnie the Pooh, the animated series “South Park,” and the NBA pre-season games.

It is yet to be seen whether Tarantino will hold the line and remain solid in his refusal to bend to the Chinese powers that be. In the past, the filmmaker made cuts to scenes in the movie “Django Unchained” after Chinese censors exerted pressure and the film’s release was cancelled.

After “Django Unchained” was re-edited and released in China, it ended up flopping, taking in a meager $2.7 million, despite a global box office of $425 million. However, Tarantino’s current offering, “Once Upon a Time,” features DiCaprio, an actor fave of Chinese audiences. Expectations were that the film was going to do much better than the above described re-edit debacle.

A critics’ favorite, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” has increasingly become a part of the buzz surrounding next year’s Academy Awards. The movie’s performance has been a solid one at the box office, with a $367 million take. Its profit margin has been even more impressive, thanks to a budget of a mere $90 million.

If it were solely up to the studio, which is Sony Pictures, the Chinese censors might have had an easier time getting their way. However, Tarantino was able to obtain the contractual right to the final edited version of the movie, and that puts the filmmaker in the catbird seat in terms of decisions regarding any modifications to the final cut.