Looking into Ted Cruz’s Bill Regarding Hollywood, China, and Censorship

Brad Slager, Under analysis it makes perfect sense, so it likely has little hope of passage.

As legislation goes it looks to be a pure partisan ploy. A Republican Senator targets Hollywood over the issue of censorship, tying it in to the currently volatile views towards China, and doing so as the industry is reeling over the pandemic crisis and movie audiences are non-existent. However once you dig into the matter you see there is sound logic behind the proposed bill.

It might sound incongruous at first, a law addressing censorship of films by dictating what studios keep or place onscreen in motion pictures. Ted Cruz has come forward with a bill that will dictate that Hollywood can no longer alter its content for the requirements of the Chinese communist leadership, which keeps a very tight control on the film industry in that nation. Refusal to do so would lead to an end to the Defense Department coordination with studios.

There is no mystery about Chinese insinuation into the various business entities of our country. There are industries, however, where the competing national interests become a problem. Movies, forming our culture as they do, offer a pathway to get messaging delivered that benefits that nation. I detailed recently the possibly more insidious example, the way some of our journalism outlets have been promoting a Chinese party line in the news coverage in recent months.

This new proposed law is targeting the less obvious but just as corrupted example of motion picture content.  Dubbed by Cruz as The Stopping Censorship, Restoring Integrity, Protecting Talkies (SCRIPT)  Act, it is intended to address a rather nonsensical practice we have seen. Our military complex has cooperated with studios over the years to aid with movie production, only to see their efforts molded to suit a foreign government that has been shown to be hostile and antagonistic towards US interests.  As Cruz explains in his official statement:

“The Chinese Communist Party spends billions and billions of dollars to mislead Americans about China and shape what our citizens see, hear, and think. For too long, Hollywood has been complicit in China’s censorship. The SCRIPT Act will serve as a wake-up call by forcing Hollywood studios to choose between the assistance they need from the American government and the dollars they want from China.”

While this timing might be coinciding with the mounting criticism over the way China has behaved regarding the global outbreak of the Coronavirus, it is a concept that has been in various stages of discussion. It was last summer when a controversy arose with the release of a trailer for the new Tom Cruise film, the long-awaited sequel ‘’Top Gun: Maverick’’. In that teaser was a shot of Cruise wearing the iconic bomber jacket from the original film, one that was owned by his character’s father and sporting patches from the various missions he was involved with in his aviation career.

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When the trailer was viewed under close inspection it was noted that patches on the back of the jacket had been altered from the way they appeared in the original. What had been changed were flag insignias for Taiwan, and Japan. It was speculated these alterations were done to appease Chinese censors, which would likely bristle at recognition of a contested Taiwanese nation being seen as independent. This likelihood was affirmed when it is noted that one of the production companies for ‘’Maverick’’ it Tencent Productions, a Chinese entity. Clearly the intent is to have the film released on the Mainland, so appeasement on screen will be required.

The participation of the DoD in Hollywood productions has been a longstanding partnership. More than just the striving for accuracy on screen it is a symbiotic business relationship. The film makers have access to military facilities and equipment, lending to realism on screen, and the military is able to cast itself in the best possible way to ensure national support as well as possibly serving as a recruitment tool. The original film stands to this day as an exhilarating commercial for the Naval air service.

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 Sen. Cruz has offered up a number of other examples of Hollywood titles which had content truncated to appease the Chi-Coms. ‘’Bohemian Rhapsody’’ was one he had cited, as the scenes involving Freddie Mercury’s homosexuality were all expunged from the Chinese edit.  Think of the oddness that exists to having a motion picture built around the magnificence of our national defense, only to have the displays undercut to fit a preferred narrative as dictated by a disapproving communist state.

This bill in no way is mandating what Hollywood places on the screen. Yet while not dictating the parameters of art what it is saying is that while studios are willing to bend to the will of the Chinese, and their lucrative film market, our military will not participate alongside. It makes perfect sense to say we are not going to use our national defense to create a propaganda narrative for a hostile state — which means there is the likelihood of this bill dying a quick death.