Director Judd Apatow recently expressed his concerns about the issue, saying that Hollywood censors films to avoid upsetting China and Saudi Arabia. He said that studios will not tackle sensitive topics about human rights abuses if it means they will lose access to profitable markets abroad.
Speaking to MSNBC, the producer of Anchorman and director of The 40-Year-Old Virgin said he was concerned about “a corporate type of censorship that people don’t really notice.” Many TV and film companies, he says, that do business with China won’t let their shows criticize them and won’t “air documentaries that go deep into truthful areas because they just make so much money.”
He added that the way that content criticizing human rights biases in China has been shut down is scary. Apatow himself is not afraid of using social media to expose human rights abuses against Uyghur Muslims with tweets such as, “It is shameful that no US companies and very few politicians speak up about concentration camps in China.”
He also said that no one in Hollywood would buy a pitch for a movie about Muslims in Chinese concentration camps.
The Mulan film was partly shot in Xinjiang, a region of China where the Chinese Communist Party has set up mass concentration and forced labor camps for millions of Uyghur Muslims, where they are often subjected to horrors like organ harvesting. Forced sterilization campaigns there saw the region’s birth rate drop by 24 percent last year, making it meet the legal definition of genocide.
In the credits of the film, Disney actually offers up a special thanks to several CCP propaganda departments in the region who were directly involved in operating or promoting mass internment camps, along with a local public security bureau branch that is subject to U.S. government sanctions on account of its role in operating such camps. This has prompted many people to boycott the film.
The CCP has barred human right organizations, foreign journalists and government officials from entering the region, but they gave Disney employees special access. The film’s production team reportedly spent months in the area researching and doing legwork before the film's production. They also refer to Xinjiang as “northwest China” in subtitles to appease the Chinese government.
Apatow also spoke out about China, writing on Twitter last week: “They are not ‘detained’ they are being held in CONCENTRATION CAMPS. Apple uses that word because they don’t want to anger China. Maybe Disney and Apple should SPEAK UP & try to help a million people who were abducted and put in CONCENTRATION CAMPS.”
According to a report by freedom of speech nonprofit PEN America, Hollywood is “increasingly normalizing” censorship to gain access to the vast film audiences is China. The country is the second-biggest market in the world for cinematic releases behind the U.S. The group says the movie industry tailors every aspect of making movies to win over Beijing, including casting, dialogue, plot and content.
For example, they say that Disney’s Marvel Studios scrapped a major Tibetan character from their 2006 film Dr. Strange as Tibet is a politically sensitive topic in China. The CCP has been accused of human rights abuses there including forced abortion and sterilization, torture and restriction of religious freedoms. The film ended up being a big hit in China, bringing in $109 million there.
Last year, the trailer for the remake of Top Gun raised eyebrows when main character Maverick’s jacket no longer had flags for Taiwan and Japan on it. Taiwan is viewed by the CCP as being a breakaway province.
It's not just Mulan; this is a widespread problem throughout Hollywood that is unlikely to change unless more people hit them where it hurts and boycott their productions.
Sources for this article include: