What "Red Dawn" taught us about defeating Chinese invaders–oops, we mean North Korean.
From Trump threatening to ban TikTok in the US to hordes of angry Americans defending their vituperative rhetoric as "free speech," America is in the midst of a "disinformation war."
But while most concern is (rightfully) centered on misinformation about the global pandemic and the upcoming 2020 election, there's another element of our lives that's being tweaked and manipulated in order to change our perception. A recent report from PEN America, a nonprofit organization that "defends and celebrates freedom of expression," documents how Hollywood has censored itself in order to appease the Chinese Communist Party's strict standards.
As the world's second-largest box office market, China has exerted undue influence over casting, plot, setting, and dialogue–according to the report, titled "Made in Hollywood, Censored by Beijing." Lead author of PEN America's report, James Tager, said, "The Chinese Communist party is increasingly shaping what global audiences see. While we are all well aware of the strict controls that China's government maintains over dissent, independent thought and creativity within its own borders, the long arm of Chinese censorship–powered by vast economic incentives–has also reached deep into Hollywood, shaping perceptions, inculcating sensitivities and reshaping the bounds of what can be shown, said and told."
Is it possible for a 90s action movie to have a stance on the politics of gender?
When The Matrix came out in 1999, the Wachowskis became two of the biggest up-and-coming talents in Hollywood.
Their mind-bending, effects-heavy action movie had quickly become one of the top-earning R-rated movies of all time and successfully launched phase three of Keanu Reeves' constantly evolving, eternal career (currently entering phase six).
However, as is so often the case, the project that earned the Wachowskis their cred was not everything they originally wanted it to be. As Lilly Wachowski put it in a recent interview with Netflix Film Club, "The corporate world wasn't ready for it." If they'd had their way, it would have been a much more overtly trans movie.
Ghosts are metaphors for things that unsettle us, and if the racial violence protests of the past few months have shown us anything, it's that America is a land of unsettling things
Native Americans have been foundational casualties in cinema since the dawn of American filmography, when Westerns built their brands off dramatic confrontations between heroic gun-slinging cowboys and Native "savages."
Just as the frontier myth was fundamental to the establishment of America's growth and eventual (ever-more-catastrophic) hegemony, the violent exploitation and murder of people simply living in their homelands has long been Hollywood gold.
By painting Native Americans as supernatural, monolithic entities that torment innocent white families, many classic horror movies play into white delusions of ownership, entitlement, and victimization. They also recenter the idea that whiteness as a "standard" that is disrupted or haunted by otherness.
This "other" can and has been queer (shoutout to the Babadook), female (Salem, anyone?), migratory, neurodivergent, Black, poor, mentally ill, or really part of any category that threatens the nuclear white ideal (for lack of a better term). Like the trope of the dark, scary woods, the "other" is a deep forest that—under the colonial imagination—must be paved over—but perhaps it's time we actually look at what's underneath.
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