Red Dawn remake: Not Chinese, but North Korean are the main villains

How an invading army changes from Chinese to North Korean: See story from the L.A. Times here. It was usual for Hollywood to use in the past a prototype of the villains – Japanese, Russians, Arabs…

Questions:

The decision is certainly first of all about money but would you say also the politics have played some role, at least indirectly? Are North Korean recently a more acceptable villains than Chinese, and why?

Answers:

Nicholas Cull, Professor of Public Diplomacy and Director of the Masters Program in Public Diplomacy, University of Southern California

That is a fascinating story.  I’ve heard people in Hollywood calculating how much money The Dark Knight must have lost by missing out on a legitimate release in China just because a minor villain was Chinese.  Of course Chinese people saw the film — as a pirate copy.  This is a fascinating case of re-engineering a film and is a sign of market pressure.  There is a reason why so many films about rogue states have simply invented a country or just had the vilains come from outer space as in Battle LA.    I wonder if the opposite is happening too and Chinese characters are being written in to please the Chinese market?  Was this the reason James Bond got a Chinese partner in The World is not Enough or J.k. Rowling introduced a Chinese-origin character — Cho Chang — mid-way into the Harry Potter book series as Harry’s love-interest.

The changes were made also in the video game called Home Front which was written by the writer/director of Red Dawn, John Milius for THQ games.  I believe that a Chinese enemy was unacceptable to THQ’s business partners in China.

There is a long tradition of changes to stories to fit politics — my favorite is the way in which the 1939 version of the Foreign Legion movie Beau Geste makes its villain’s Russian rather than Belgian to as Russians weren’t then importing US movies but France and Belgium where.  It used to be that Hollywood’s favorite ‘no offense’ villain was British.  I guess this works with movies about rogue criminals, but you couldn’t really posit a British conquest of the near future United States.  I wonder if ‘Greater North Korea’ includes South Korea?  I’d rather North Korean villains in a video game than slander about the Muslim community of the sort we see in too many movies and hear in the current King hearings on capitol hill.

I never saw the original “Red Dawn” and don’t intend to see the remake. So I begin by admitting that I don’t know to what degree the Soviets, or Chinese, or North Koreans are vilified. Probably plenty, judging by the foto and the theme — “a bunch of American farm kids repelling a Soviet (now Chinese, or North Korean) invasion” — of the film.

I sometimes think many film producers are so stupid it is amazing they survive at all in the real world. (Or maybe they just give a miserable world the garbage it wants.) The very idea to remake an old Cold War plot with Chinese “bad-guys” — it was filmed less than 2 years ago — is idiotic and shows how little creativity there is any more in Hollywood. And then suddenly to try to change the Chinese bad-guys to North Korean bad-guys is pathetic. If they think the Chinese are so bad, go ahead and say so. MGM deserves to die. Requiscat in Pace!!  But that is a separate matter.

I suspect the motivations of the producers were entirely making money, since that is what most businesses try to do, with a minimum of thought — using an old plot, just changing the nationality of the bad-guys, because it is cheaper than coming up with a good new idea and script. Of course they should have thought ahead — if they think at all — and known that the anti-Chinese theme would alienate a huge audience in China — Chinese love of American movies didn’t begin in 2010, after the filming — but also beyond with people (like me) who resist needlessly provocative plots involving presumably real-life people. Maybe someone at MGM also thought about the political angle or maybe someone with a little political savvy mentioned to an MGM executive that such a theme would be needlessly harmful to broader Sino-US relations. Anyway, rather than kill the film, which they should have done, they found a politically acceptable “Yellow Peril” bad guy, that is North Korea. North Korea is such a terrible place it does lend itself to being made the bad-guy, if a really miserable one that presumably only provides foot-soldier for the real evil, which logically and presumably would still be China…

The whole incident appears to be a pathetic example of ancient money-grubbing Hollywood devoid of new ideas dumping drivel into what it considers a stupid, violence-craving world.

William Ratliff, Research Fellow, Hoover Institution (Stanford University) and Independent Institute

I never saw the original “Red Dawn” and don’t intend to see the remake. So I begin by admitting that I don’t know to what degree the Soviets, or Chinese, or North Koreans are vilified. Probably plenty, judging by the foto and the theme — “a bunch of American farm kids repelling a Soviet (now Chinese, or North Korean) invasion” — of the film.

I sometimes think many film producers are so stupid it is amazing they survive at all in the real world. (Or maybe they just give a miserable world the garbage it wants.) The very idea to remake an old Cold War plot with Chinese “bad-guys” — it was filmed less than 2 years ago — is idiotic and shows how little creativity there is any more in Hollywood. And then suddenly to try to change the Chinese bad-guys to North Korean bad-guys is pathetic. If they think the Chinese are so bad, go ahead and say so. MGM deserves to die. Requiscat in Pace!!  But that is a separate matter.

I suspect the motivations of the producers were entirely making money, since that is what most businesses try to do, with a minimum of thought — using an old plot, just changing the nationality of the bad-guys, because it is cheaper than coming up with a good new idea and script. Of course they should have thought ahead — if they think at all — and known that the anti-Chinese theme would alienate a huge audience in China — Chinese love of American movies didn’t begin in 2010, after the filming — but also beyond with people (like me) who resist needlessly provocative plots involving presumably real-life people. Maybe someone at MGM also thought about the political angle or maybe someone with a little political savvy mentioned to an MGM executive that such a theme would be needlessly harmful to broader Sino-US relations. Anyway, rather than kill the film, which they should have done, they found a politically acceptable “Yellow Peril” bad guy, that is North Korea. North Korea is such a terrible place it does lend itself to being made the bad-guy, if a really miserable one that presumably only provides foot-soldier for the real evil, which logically and presumably would still be China…

The whole incident appears to be a pathetic example of ancient money-grubbing Hollywood devoid of new ideas dumping drivel into what it considers a stupid, violence-craving world.

Edward Friedman, Professor, Political Science Department, University of Wisconsin-Madison

One film is not Hollywood. It is one film.

In business, is there a higher ideology than making money?

Still, this small action reflects a larger and very ominous trend for those who care about the fate of freedom in our world.

The ever heavier weight of the fast-growing Chinese economy is a factor in democratic governments’ fear of treating the Dalai Lama with respect or giving Nobel winner Liu Xiaobo his respect. Money interests take priority. This leads to democratic governments keeping supporters of human rights away from high level Chinese visitors. It makes human rights conversations with the CCP government little more than a ritual. Making money trumps respect for the basics of human dignity.

The re-writeof the movie script, therefore, is symbolic of how democratic governments and supposedly independent intellectuals in democracies won’t even describe the single party dictatorship in China as a dictatorship. Instead they increasingly treat the PRC as an instance of good governance and treat democracy as if it were something the authoritarian CCP almost is, as if the monopoly of arbitrary power held by the CCP regime were not increasingly impinging on the social space of the Chinese people.Night is treated as day. Orwell wins.

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One Response

  1. Red Dawn remake: Not Chinese, but North Korean are the main ……

    Here at World Spinner we are debating the same thing……

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