Top Gun: Maverick, a sequel to the 1980s adventure-thriller film in which Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer combat bad guys for the US Navy, is breaking box office records in America 36 years after the original. It is receiving recognition for another reason, in addition to stunning dogfights with fighter jets. When the film’s trailer was released in 2019, the Taiwanese and Japanese flags were taken from Cruise’s bomber jacket, satisfying Beijing (which claims Taiwan and opposes Japan), but hurting Americans.
The flags were reinstalled when the picture was released late last month by Paramount. Both Americans and Taiwanese applauded. According to some commentators, this was proof that Hollywood was finally standing up to China.
Despite the fact that the film is supposed to be about US military strength, it does not mention or even imply the presence of China, which is a significant omission given what US military officials consistently designate as America’s top security threat. Public warnings about Beijing’s threat to national security are issued on a regular basis. Admiral Michael Gilday, the US Chief of Naval Operations, has stated that “China is the strategic threat to this country.”
Last year’s annual US government danger report stated, “China is increasingly confronting the United States in numerous domains – especially economically, militarily, and technologically – and is seeking to influence global norms.”
According to a new report, Hollywood edits movies for China
The fact that China doesn’t even exist in the setting of Top Gun is an illustration of how Beijing covertly wields power in Hollywood. The film isn’t currently showing in China, but that isn’t the point.
There’s no need to outlaw a picture when, as Top Gun: Maverick demonstrates, a company will censor itself when it comes to how Beijing is portrayed – or not portrayed. Surprisingly, no clear guidelines exist for how, why, or when Beijing will respond.
Take, for example, the United Pictures-distributed comedy Johnny English Reborn from 2011. Rowan Atkinson portrayed the titular clumsy British spy in the film, which is one of his most well-known roles.
A very basic guide about China and Taiwan.
It begins in a Tibetan monastery – a sensitive subject for Beijing, which prefers only tightly controlled depictions of that Himalayan region – and only grows more contentious from there. The Chinese premier, who is represented as timid and ignorant, must be protected from international criminals.
In the age of Xi Jinping, however, such a film is unlikely to be approved. But what became of Atkinson and the film’s studio?
I’ve seen no evidence that Beijing has penalised Universal for the representation, and Atkinson remains extremely famous in China: Mr Bean’s face is the most common face I remember seeing on Chinese airline televisions, even more than Chinese Chairmen Xi, Hu Jintao, or Mao Zedong, on dozens of flights I’ve travelled in China before and after 2011. The takeaway from this film, as well as hundreds of others that deal with (or don’t deal with) China, is that Beijing can be arbitrary in its tolerance or punishment of a studio or star, and that this is part of the strategy to keep Hollywood on its toes. China gains influence as a result of its capriciousness.
Films critical of China are occasionally shown across the country, and occasionally they are not.
Actors Sharon Stone and Richard Gere, who outraged the party by their activity on Tibet, have had their careers harmed as a result of their criticisms of Beijing. While others, such as actor Christian Bale, who endorsed a Chinese activist, and director Judd Apatow, who made remarks regarding Uighurs, appear to have escaped retaliation.
Is any feature/bug is in keeping with Chinese Communist Party power-wielding methods?
This is a feature, not a bug, and is in keeping with Chinese Communist Party power-wielding methods. As a result, studios are left in the dark on a regular basis. Chinese censorship has become routine for moviegoers, which may explain why a flag patch is misinterpreted as “tough on China.”However, if American admirals are able to speak openly against China, Hollywood’s reliance on muttered and subdued flag symbolism for its most patriotic films appears woefully inadequate.