American movie producers, especially Disney, have always been loyal partners to Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials, censoring themes and objects from films that would offend their authoritarian business partners. However, Japanese-based Sony refuses to kowtow to the Chinese, recently refusing to remove imagery of the Statue of Liberty from Spider-Man: No Way Home. American filmmakers have a lot to learn from their Japanese counterparts.
Since the late 1990s, it has been virtually unheard of for Hollywood to deny the demands of Chinese censors. Following the United States, China has the second-largest movie-going population. As such, film producers have wrongly assumed that for a film to be a worldwide success, it must be suitable for Chinese audiences.
In 1998, China blocked the Disney movie Kundun, which possessed themes of Chinese oppression of the Tibetan people. Disney’s CEO Michael Eisner groveled to the Chinese censors, apologizing for having ever produced the film, stating it was a “form of insult to our friends [CCP officials].” Kundun is now not even available in the U.S. on Disney+.
Similar censorship was seen in the 2013 film World War Z that, ironically, had to remove a discussion between two characters about how a zombie apocalypse virus originated in China. More recently, in the Doctor Strange film, a character’s Tibetan ancestry had to be removed and replaced with a British actress.
There are countless examples of Hollywood producers undermining their own artistic creations to do the dirty work of the CCP. In contrast to this trend, Sony, a Tokyo-based film producer, refused to censor Spider-Man: No Way Home. As a result, the film has been banned from China and was never shown in Chinese theaters.
When CCP officials reviewed Spider-Man: No Way Home, they demanded Sony remove all scenes in which the Statue of Liberty is visible. Such a request is not surprising. The CCP wishes to keep its citizenry ignorant of all ideas of freedom and inalienable rights as such ideas undermine their communist dictatorship. However, Sony quickly refused this request.
Chinese officials continued to pressure Sony to censor its film. Rather than cut scenes, CCP officials requested that the company diminish the Statue of Liberty’s presence to make it unrecognizable to moviegoers. Once again, the Tokyo-based company denied the CCP request.
Refusing to do China’s bidding is a bold move, especially considering how lucrative the recent Spider-Man films featuring Tom Holland have been with Chinese audiences.
Tom Holland’s first Spider-Man film grossed $116 million in Chinese markets. His second film, Spider-Man: Far From Home, made a total of $200 million from Chinese viewers. However, the third film, Spider-Man: No Way Home, will likely never be shown in Chinese territory due to the Statue of Liberty and the American values expressed in its imagery.
This story is even more interesting because Sony didn’t see a dramatic drop in revenue. In fact, Spider-Man: No Way Home was, by far, Sony’s most successful Spider-Man movie. The movie made a stunning $1.892 billion. For comparison, the first Spider-Man film featuring Holland only grossed approximately $880 million worldwide.
American film producers and distributors have a lot to learn from Sony, namely to stand up to tyrannical CCP officials. Hollywood should learn from this instance and turn its focus from appealing to authoritarians that forward genocide to producing high-quality films that people in free countries want to see.
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