Last week we looked at how the video game Homefront changed its plot to make the the force invading America from North Korea, and not China as originally planned.
Now comes the announcement that studio MGM will use digital editing to do the same, converting the game's Chinese invaders to North Korean in its long-shelved reboot of the invasion-USA film Red Dawn. The unprecendented editing move represents a new truth about Hollywood's future.
Last year when the news got out about the plot of the planned Red Dawn cinematic remake — Chinese forces invade and occupy the US — Chinese newspapers ran outraged criticism with headlines like "US Reshoots Cold War Movie to Demonize China," and "American Movie Plants Hostile Seeds Against China."
Even those in the American media criticized the film as naked Sinophobia.
The makers of Homefront, a first-person-shooter game about an occupied America, where players must fight Asian forces under the flag of North Korea, admitted that concerns from its China office over how the game-maker's reputation would be damaged there was the catalyst to change the game's enemy from China to a North Korean federation.
Similarly, the Los Angeles Times reports that MGM's attempts to distribute the film ran into trouble well before any of China's authorities saw it:
"In the last few weeks, MGM has begun showing Red Dawn to potential buyers at other studios. Several people who have seen the movie but requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the record said they couldn't risk distributing it given the potential blowback in China."
China is now the fifth-biggest market for Hollywood outside of the US, one that's growing and a priority to studios. No Hollywood executive worth their bonus would risk alienating this audience — or the government authorities that still closely control market access.
As the Times notes, Disney paid a dear price in the 1990s for releasing Tibet-themed films, and China's economic influence has only increased manyfold since then.
It's unclear how much the studio will digitally alter the film as it changes the invading forces from Chinese to North Korean characters. Numerous pitfalls exist.
Will the change include potential Chinese dialogue in the film? Names? And, of course, there is the matter of the posters and promotional materials which feature the Chinese Military's famed "ba yi" logo seen in the now-scrapped poster, characters which refers to "eight one" in honor of August 1st, the day the People's Liberation Army was founded.
Time magazine notes that "the studio itself admitted that it will be impossible to switch every China reference to something North Korean."
Even after recasting the villainous race to non-Chinese, Red Dawn is likely still doomed in China, where it will always be known as "that Chinese invasion film."
Beyond China, for those Sinophobes who cheered the original plot about a Chinese invasion, it will only reinforce their racism. And switching nationalities of the invaders won't do much to endear Hollywood to Asian consumers leery of seeing any Asian nation demonized, vilified and stereotyped as the bad guy.