Red Dawn II Quietly Gets Pussified
Reel China: Hollywood tries to stay on China’s good side
Without Beijing even uttering a critical word, MGM is changing the villains in its ‘Red Dawn’ remake from Chinese to North Korean. It’s all about maintaining access to the Asian superpower’s lucrative box office.
By Ben Fritz and John Horn, Los Angeles Times
China has become such an important market for U.S. entertainment companies that one studio has taken the extraordinary step of digitally altering a film to excise bad guys from the Communist nation lest the leadership in Beijing be offended.
When MGM decided a few years ago to remake “Red Dawn,” a 1984 Cold War drama about a bunch of American farm kids repelling a Soviet invasion, the studio needed new villains, since the U.S.S.R. had collapsed in 1991. The producers substituted Chinese aggressors for the Soviets and filmed the movie in Michigan in 2009.
But potential distributors are nervous about becoming associated with the finished film, concerned that doing so would harm their ability to do business with the rising Asian superpower, one of the fastest-growing and potentially most lucrative markets for American movies, not to mention other U.S. products.
As a result, the filmmakers now are digitally erasing Chinese flags and military symbols from “Red Dawn,” substituting dialogue and altering the film to depict much of the invading force as being from North Korea, an isolated country where American media companies have no dollars at stake.
The changes illustrate just how much sway China’s government has in the global entertainment industry, even without uttering a word of official protest. Although it’s unclear if anyone in China has seen “Red Dawn,” a leaked version of the script last year resulted in critical editorials in the Global Times, a communist party-controlled paper.
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.
People close to the picture said the changes will cost less than $1 million and involve changing an opening sequence summarizing the story’s fictional backdrop, re-editing two scenes and using digital technology to transform many Chinese symbols to Korean. It’s impossible to eliminate all references to China, the people said, though the changes will give North Korea a much larger role in the coalition that invades the U.S.
“Red Dawn” is not the only piece of entertainment to swap out Chinese villains for North Koreans recently. The video game “Homefront,” which was released this week and features a script by John Milius, writer of the original “Red Dawn,” was also originally intended to feature a Chinese invasion. For business reasons, publisher THQ changed the occupying forces to North Korea.