Taipei, Taiwan – Hollywood has a China problem.
The world’s second-largest economy has become one of the biggest markets for big-budget Hollywood movies, but the racist backlash against Disney’s The Little Mermaid could have hurt China’s sensibilities. It’s just the latest example of the price movie companies have to pay.
Chinese state media and netizens have condemned the casting of Harry Bailey, who is black, as Princess Ariel, a move the Atlanta-born actress took on the fair-skinned character in the 1989 and 1837 animated films. I agree with some Americans expressing anger at the dissimilarity. A fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen.
The Global Times, a Chinese English-language tabloid known for its nationalistic reporting, said in an op-ed last month that Disney’s casting non-white actors in classic stories “turns classic stories into ‘sacrificial lambs’ for political correctness.” ,” he criticized.
“The beautiful tales that have colored the childhoods of countless children lose their meaning when they become the setting for racial conflict, without romance and fantasy, replaced by debates about skin color.” The tabloid said, arguing that such casting controversy was not caused by racism. Racist but “lazy and irresponsible storytelling”.
The backlash — many of which are outright racist — has also occurred online among ordinary Chinese moviegoers.
Some users on social media platforms such as Sina Weibo have criticized Bailey’s appearance and black features.
Other Chinese commentators on the Internet have left more positive reviews, with a poster on the movie site Mayoan saying that Bailey’s appearance has little effect on children, and that she is Princess Ariel’s most essential character. He said that it represented a brave spirit, which is a good character trait.
China doesn’t have the same racial history or politics as the United States, but audiences are still sensitive to how race is portrayed in Hollywood movies. Follow news and culture from China and Taiwan from Canada. China-born YouTuber Yao Zhang said.
Zhang said traditional Chinese beauty standards emphasize white skin and large, round eyes, and some viewers and government officials hoped that Chinese values would be reflected on screen. It is said that there is
“There is no right way of looking at things [the film in the US]Zhang told Al Jazeera. “But China has a way of getting it 100 percent right.”
Mr. Zhang compared the backlash to the public reaction to supermodel Lu Yang, whose small eyes and high cheekbones were deemed unattractive in China, but Lu Yang’s success has been attributed to uplifting China. Some Chinese bloggers claimed it was a Western ploy to make China look bad, but Lu Yang’s success was seen as unattractive in China with “ugly” women.
Amid continued negative press, “The Little Mermaid” did poorly at the Chinese box office, earning just $3.6 million in its first 10 days of release on May 26, according to international film advisory group Artisan Gateway. I just couldn’t get it.
Recommendations say live-action remakes of Disney classics typically make between $40 million and $85 million at the box office in China.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 and Fast & Furious X, also released in May, have grossed about $80 million and $120 million respectively since their release.
The failure of The Little Mermaid is just the latest example of how difficult it is for Hollywood to navigate the world’s largest theatrical market, which once had an insatiable appetite for American movies.
China is particularly competitive because Chinese censors only accept a few dozen foreign films a year. As of May, only 39 foreign films will be released in 2023, including 18 Hollywood films. Unlike 20 years ago, Hollywood also has to compete with a thriving domestic film industry producing its own blockbusters.
Studios also face the dilemma of accepting changes to meet the demands of Chinese censors or risking exclusion from the market.
Sony famously changed the 2012 remake of Red Dawn in post-production to feature North Korea’s invasion of the United States instead of China, costing the studio millions of dollars.
In 2016, the writers of Marvel’s action movie Doctor Strange suggested that they changed the background of the Ancient One character from Tibetan to European to avoid upsetting China.
Spider-Man: No Way Home, one of the highest-grossing films of all time, will be discontinued in 2021 after Marvel refused to cut the film’s “patriotic” ending, which is set in New York’s Statue of Liberty. News site Puck reported that it was rejected for publication in China in 2019. Lost studio sales go from an estimated $170 million to he’s $340 million.
Chinese moviegoers’ anger could spill over to other films and actors, potentially softening Hollywood’s willingness to defy Chinese censorship.
Disney’s 1998 animated film “Mulan” famously had its release postponed in China after another Dalai Lama movie, “Kundun,” was backed by the studio, but the former Hollywood executive said: Feed the Dragon: Inside the Trillion Dollar Dilemma Facing Hollywood and the NBA,” said Chris Fenton, author of , American Business.
“They blackball everyone involved with a particular film, including the studio,” Fenton told Al Jazeera.
“Sometimes black balls are temporary, like Sony after Red Dawn or Disney after Kundun. [Dalai Lama supporter] It could be Richard Gere, or even Brad Pitt, but we don’t know exactly if the actor has been banned. There’s only one proof that the movies they’ve been involved in will never get approval. ”
Fenton said China is too big a market to ignore, so Hollywood’s recent resistance to the trend will work as long as the dollars and cents stack up.
“A lot of the time money determines whether you do the right thing or the wrong thing, but the good thing is that now doing the right thing can be more profitable,” he said.