Film News

Why People Are Criticizing Disney's "Mulan"

People are taking issues with "Mulan" stars' political beliefs (or lack thereof) and the movie's apparent support of Uighur "re-education" camps.

Mulan Movie

Mulan is a beloved animated Disney film, but its live-action adaptation has run into some real-world problems.

The 1998 animated Disney film, based on a Chinese folklore tale "The Ballad of Mulan," received the classic 2020 live-action remake treatment this year. But its rollout was plagued by problems from the start.

Originally meant to debut on March 27, 2020, the film's release was delayed three times due to COVID-19. Finally, the studio decided to roll out the film on September 8, 2020, bypassing movie theaters entirely in the US. Instead, it exclusively dropped on Disney+ in the US for a tall fee of $30. The film will become available to all Disney+ subscribers on December 4th. The film is also being released in some recently reopened theatres in Asia, and it's expected to bring in millions of dollars in China when it debuts this Friday.

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Film Features

How China Is Controlling Hollywood

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."

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Culture Feature

Can Trump Really Ban TikTok from the US?  Should He?

How founded are the concerns about the app's security?

Say what you want about TikTok, but there's no question that the app is a massive success.

TikTok has surpassed 2 billion downloads and set a record for app installs in a single quarter, making it one of the most popular apps of all time. But as concerns about the security of the Chinese owned social media network mount, TikTok's future in the United States is looking more and more uncertain.

On Friday, President Trump told reporters that he would ban TikTok from operating in the United States through emergency economic powers or an executive order. This comes after concerns about the apps use of data, particularly the concern that the Chinese government has access to the data the app gathers from American users.

TikTok fans immediately expressed their concern, with one user, Ehi Omigie, saying, "Everyone is live right now," in a livestream on the app Friday night after news of Trumps statement spread. "Everyone is going cray cray ... If it does happen, follow me on Instagram."

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MUSIC

From SXSW to Coachella, Will the Coronavirus Kill Live Music in 2020?

With a recent spate of cancellations and mounting fear of an emerging pandemic, the near-future of live music is in doubt.

Getty Images

UPDATE:

Both SXSW and Coachella have been canceled, with the latter beung technically postponed until October. Coachella organizers released a statement on March 10:

At the direction of the County of Riverside and local health authorities, we must sadly confirm the rescheduling of Coachella and Stagecoach due to COVID-19 concerns. While this decision comes at a time of universal uncertainty, we take the safety and health of our guests, staff and community very seriously. We urge everyone to follow the guidelines and protocols put forth by public health officials.

Coachella will now take place on October 9, 10 and 11 and October 16, 17 and 18, 2020. Stagecoach will take place on October 23, 24 and 25, 2020. All purchases for the April dates will be honored for the rescheduled October dates. Purchasers will be notified by Friday, March 13 on how to obtain a refund if they are unable to attend.

Thank you for your continued support and we look forward to seeing you in the desert this fall.

Less than a week prior, for the first time in 34 years, SXSW was canceled by the city of Austin, citing public safety concerns over the coronavirus.

There's something so special about seeing music live.

The energy from the crowd all around you. Thousands of bodies pressed together—moving in rhythm, sharing one voice, one breath, and one expanding cloud of viral pathogens…

Is it even really a concert or a music festival if you aren't making forced physical contact with two to five strangers at all times? With fears around the nascent coronavirus pandemic already disrupting tourism—Disney is forecasting tens of millions in losses from drops in park attendance—and leading to the cancellation and closure of various large, public events and venues, the thought of a music festival is starting to seem like a relic of a simpler time.

Louvre Coronavirus Chesnot/Getty Images

All across the globe people are stocking up on dry goods and hand sanitizer and avoiding crowds as much as possible. So-called "self-isolating" is not just for binge-watching TV shows anymore, it's become actual medical advice along with "social distancing," which adds impossible precautions like maintaining six feet of physical distance when navigating public spaces. Tokyo all but canceled their yearly marathon, and it remains to be seen whether the city will be hosting the summer Olympics as planned. While apps and websites launch to help people avoid crowds, the Louvre is finally reopening in Paris this week with added precautions to protect staff and visitors.

In the US, the first real test of the new state of things will be taking place in Austin from March 13-22. South By Southwest—the annual amalgam of music, tech, and media events—is slated to begin next Friday, and it would normally be expected to draw attendance of more than 150,000. But events are already being canceled. Apple confirmed on Wednesday that it will be joining Netflix, Amazon, Twitter, and Facebook in pulling back from scheduled events amid calls to cancel altogether. Meanwhile Austin's Public Health offices released a statement posted on the SXSW website saying that "no health departments in the state have requested the cancellation of any gatherings as the current risk of person-to-person spread in their jurisdictions remains low."

If that statement turns out to be correct—and attendance is not substantially affected by mounting fear and the slew of cancellations—then perhaps Coachella will proceed as normal from April 10-19 in Indo, California. With an impressive lineup including Rage Against the Machine, Frank Ocean, Travis Scott, Run the Jewels, and Lana Del Rey, that's certainly what a lot of people are hoping. But if attendance tanks, or if even one new case of COVID-19 ends up being traced to Austin during SXSW, it seems unlikely that Coachella will take place without some major adjustments.

sxsw SXSW

Some companies are looking at the prospect of monitoring attendee's temperatures at the entrance to festivals, but there is reason to believe that this method has limited value, and with people practically living on top of each other for days on end—breathing the same air and swapping all manner of fluids—even one sociable carrier could quickly lead to a mass outbreak among nearly 100,000 daily attendees at Coachella. The venue has already proven to be an impressive petri dish for other diseases. Now imagine the Japanese cruise ship quarantine, except it's a crowd of underdressed Instagram influencers sharing not enough porta-potties.

Inside China, the rate of new infections is rapidly dropping. If that trend extends to the rest of the world, then perhaps there won't be a need for concern much longer. But if new cases continue to crop up as they have in California, Washington, New York and elsewhere, will bands even be willing to perform in mass venues? What if conditions worsen? Already, some live performances have been converted to livestreams from empty venues. Will that be the model for live performances in 2020?

There is an outside chance that as the seasons change the threat of the coronavirus may recede (or migrate to the southern hemisphere), in which case current concerns about the death of live music may be overblown. If the incidence rate drops in time for the Bonnaroo, Governors Ball, and Lollapalooza, then maybe live music can survive this brush with modern pestilence. On the other hand, if vaccine research doesn't proceed at a rapid pace, outbreaks could recur just in time for the fall and Austin City Limits from October 2-11. Tough year for Austin...

For anyone who's already committed to a crowded public event, the best advice is just to be aware of your vulnerabilities, to keep your hands clean, and to cough into the crook of your elbow. Also, use a condom. Good luck.

CULTURE

Rush Limbaugh Is a 30-year Infection in American Media

His latest insanity involved claiming that the coronavirus is both "the common cold," and a bio-weapon designed by China.

Bloomberg/Getty Images

There are few people in American media as reliably unhinged and distasteful as Rush Limbaugh.

But to many in his audience of more than 15 million weekly listeners, Limbaugh is a bastion of straight talk. Since the late 1980s, his brand of antisocial advocacy has twisted and infected the nation's political conversations.

What makes Limbaugh so compelling is that he never pulls punches or offers any deference to basic human decency. He will fight for the rights of smokers to choke a restaurant with clouds of thick smoke, will happily claim that Planned Parenthood is committing genocide against black Americans, and will never shrink from accusing Michael J. Fox of "exaggerating the effects" of Parkinson's disease with no evidence beyond the fact that Limbaugh himself can do a morbid pantomime of wild muscle spasms. To regular listeners, these unequivocal stances reflect Rush's willingness to stand up to the leftist authoritarians and the woke scolds of the world. He speaks truth to power… Unless of course Republicans control the levers of power, in which case Rush will speak in power's defense.

Limbaugh mocking Michael J. Fox

That was the case on Monday, when Rush managed to argue—in the span of a few minutes—that COVID-19 (colloquially known as the coronavirus) is both "the common cold," and "a Chicom laboratory experiment that is in the process of being weaponized." Chicom is a reference to China's ruling Communist party, whom Rush is accusing of deliberately manufacturing this new strain of virus as a form of biological warfare. But due to their incompetence or some nefarious ulterior motive that involves getting everyone only mildly ill, their biological weapon is—according to Rush—"the common cold."

As evidence of its mildness, Rush cites the low mortality rate—"98% of people who get the coronavirus survive." Of course, this would seem to undermine the sinister plot that Rush has espied through his omniscience, if not for his clever discovery of Chicom's co-conspirators: the mainstream media. "The drive-by media hype of this thing as a pandemic, as the Andromeda strain, as, 'Oh, my God, if you get it, you're dead.'"

There's no doubt that the media has a history of exaggerating the potential danger of emerging epidemics—ask anyone who had the Swine flu and shrugged it off. It makes for a gripping story to tell viewers that a new disease that's spreading is coming to kill them and their loved ones, but the famously pro-communist "drive-by" media is legitimately too distractible to really focus on overblowing a health crisis while also covering election drama, Megxit, Trump's pardons, and Harvey Weinstein. So if they are giving the coronavirus too much hype, it can only be part of an elaborate conspiracy with Xi Jinping and the Chinese government…but to what end?

COVID-19 Timeline Wikimedia

As always, in times of uncertainty, we turn to Rush Limbaugh for the answer: "The way it is being weaponized is by virtue of the media, and I think that it is an effort to bring down Trump, and one of the ways it's being used to do this is to scare the investors, to scare people in business. It's to scare people into not buying Treasury bills at auctions. It's to scare people into leaving, cashing out of the stock market—and sure enough, as the show began today, the stock market—the Dow Jones Industrial Average—was down about 900 points, supposedly because of the latest news about the spread of the coronavirus."

Fascinating. Meanwhile the fact that nearly 3,000 deaths have occurred—with more than 80,000 confirmed cases and outbreaks spreading in Italy, Iran, South Korea, and Japan—must all be part of the hype. The fact that the virus is wildly contagious and not well understood is part of the hype. The facts that the entire city of Wuhan—with a population of over 11 million—is under strict quarantine and that containment measures throughout China are disrupting office work, manufacturing, and transportation is all part of a clever, convoluted plan to hurt the presidency of Donald Trump. The fact that tourism and travel have dropped off around the world, and that various companies have reported losses as a result of the virus and the measures taken to combat it, it's all just calculated to undermine President Trump's singular metric of success—the surging "economy" embodied in the stock market.

Stock market drop

Because there can't possibly be anything wrong with structuring economic policy entirely around a foundation of volatile investor speculation and a faith in limitless corporate growth. No, the strategy would be perfect if it weren't for the forces of evil aligning against Donald Trump to control global events in a way that hurts his political chances. In that sense, it's only reasonable for President Trump to dangle military aid in front of foreign leaders in exchange for dirt and propaganda against his political rivals. It's the only way he can fight back!

This latest drama comes on the heels of Limbaugh's receipt of the Presidential Medal of Freedom during President Trump's State of the Union Address—an honor which Limbaugh pretended to be surprised by. Some people have criticized the decision to give such a prestigious award to the kind of man who would glibly invent conspiracies about Chinese bio-weapons and downplay the severity of a little-understood contagion. On the other hand, if anyone should know about the dangers of viral respiratory infections—and the deadly pneumonia that can result in people with compromised systems—it's surely Rush Limbaugh. He is, after all, currently being treated for stage four lung cancer and is unlikely to recover.

Rush Limbaugh with a Cigar

That last point is worth restating: Rush Limbaugh most likely will not be with us for much longer. It's an important thought to keep in mind when things seem bleak.

CULTURE

Americans Are Shocked At Terry Crews' Seemingly Pro-China Posts on Instagram

Whether the post was really intended to be pro-China remains unclear, but it wouldn't really be that shocking

Instagram

Americans love to have a villain.

Someone they can really sneer at and come together to root against. But Terry Crews is usually the furthest thing from the bad guy. He's a gifted painter, a former NFL player, and a fountain of positive energy and open communication whom we loved for his role in Brooklyn Nine-Nine even before he became a hero of progressive cultural change.

In 2017, when Crews shared his personal experience with sexual harassment and assault in Hollywood, he made himself vulnerable in a way that a lot of men—particularly men who are perceived as strong and masculine—would shy away from. His story became as clear an illustration of the toxic power dynamics in the entertainment industry as most of us could imagine—showing that even someone with the strength and confidence of a literal superhero could be taken advantage of and violated by the powerful figures in a system with such pervasive problems.

How could a man who has done so much to win our love provoke American society to suddenly turn against him? By siding—or at least seeming to side—with America's favorite villain du jour: China.

Crews is currently in Shanghai with his family and apparently having a great time. Some people would probably take issue with that alone—with an Instagram post asserting that China's largest city is "INCREDIBLE!!!" and "Truly a wonder to see in person!" Many American's have so thoroughly written off China as a force of pure evil that even innocuous positivity like this, delivered with a message of "WORLDWIDE LOVE," would be unacceptable, but it's not really surprising or out of character.

What really surprised people was when Crews posted a picture of himself, earlier this week, posing in front of the flag of the People's Republic of China, with the phase "POWER TO THE PEOPLES." This is the post that opened the floodgates on a torrent of negative responses, with thousands posting messages expressing their shock.

Most of the commenters seemed particularly concerned with the protesters in Hong Kong and with the perception that Crews was aligning himself with the mainland government, against the people who have occupied Hong Kong's streets for the past seven months fighting for autonomous democracy in their city. While it seems like a stretch to assume that Crews intended the post as an endorsement of Xi Jinping's government, the image was certainly suggestive of pro-China propaganda, with Crews looking buff and tough, with the red and gold flag framing his head. It's reminiscent of Ivan Drago in Rocky IV, posing in front of the flag of the USSR. And just like Ivan, Terry's post could not be more perfectly calculated to inflame American patriotism against him.

Ivan Drago "Rocky IV" 1985

It may be that Crews is not particularly familiar with the issues in Hong Kong—he's a busy man, with a lot on his plate. Or maybe, seeing the way people live in Shanghai, he doesn't think that Hong Kong has a great deal to fear in losing their autonomy. That's debatable, but there are other, more pressing reasons to maintain a strong critical stance when it comes to China. In particular, the "Vocational Training" that is being provided to Uyghur Muslims against their will in the Xinjiang re-education camps. There are reports about various atrocities—everything from rape to organ harvesting—that may be taking place in those camps. Without a free press in China, it's difficult to say for certain what's going on there—which is a problem in and of itself.

But if Crews had instead appeared in front of an American flag—or wrapped in a flag suit like his character in Idiocracy—would people have taken that as an endorsement of Donald Trump? Does the fact that he hosts America's Got Talent mean he must deny that America also has police violence? Does it mean he should ignore the sexual assault that takes place in our concentration camps at the southern border? Maybe flags in general just make for cool backdrops. Or maybe a person can express appreciation for a nation and its people without endorsing everything the government does there.

President Camacho "Idiocracy" (2006)

Meanwhile, Flint Michigan, where Terry Crews grew up, still has poison flowing from many of its taps. The NFL, where Terry Crews used to play, has—at the behest of President Trump—banned kneeling on the sidelines during the national anthem to protest police violence. Los Angeles, where Terry Crews lives, is suffering from a housing crisis, with 1% of the population living on the streets or in shelters. And the United States is still officially home to the largest population of imprisoned people on earth.

It's easy to attack China's crimes, because China is far away and their political problems seemingly have little in common with our own—and there is absolutely a lot to be critical of. Their problems allow even a divided country like ours a moment of unity—with everyone from Elizabeth Warren (who penned an article titled "It Is Time for the United States to Stand Up to China in Hong Kong") to the Trump family jumping on board. It may yet turn out that Terry Crews was unaware of some of these problems, or he didn't want to take the risk of expressing his own criticisms while his family is still within the country's borders.

Colin Kaepernick John G Mabanglo

That would be understandable. It could even turn out that "POWER TO THE PEOPLES," was meant as a subtle, pro-democracy message of solidarity—we can't really know right now. But if it's not, would it be that shocking to learn that, as a black man in the United States, Terry Crews knows better than to judge a nation simply by its worst crimes or its greatest achievements. Crews has achieved tremendous success for himself and his family, but he has also seen how badly his home country tends to treat people who look like him. Maybe he can celebrate the best of what he's seen in China—e.g. the hundreds of millions there who have been lifted out of poverty—without endorsing the worst of that government's evils.

Maybe Terry Crews is more capable of nuance than the people who break everything into heroes and villains—who praise Hong Kong protesters for throwing bricks and attack American protesters for throwing milkshakes or distracting us from football.