Flexibility enables Hollywood to grow

Source:Global Times Published: 2016-4-29 0:23:01

The casting of blonde British actress Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One, a mystical character of Tibetan descent in its original depiction, in the Hollywood blockbuster Doctor Strange, has sparked protests from overseas groups advocating for Tibetan independence and some human rights activists. One of the film's screenwriters suggested in an interview that the decision to abandon the Tibetan origin of the character was purposely made to avoid offending the Chinese government and moviegoers and losing the Chinese market as a result . Protesters claimed that the casting has ignited outrage among many Tibetans, Tibetan supporters and human rights activists since last year when the news was revealed. They deem it as "racial discrimination" and unacceptable.

Some hold the casting of a white actress as a Tibetan character is related to the Hollywood tradition of white people playing Asian characters. But it was denied by the filmmakers. No matter what the real considerations are, it's probably true that Marvel Studios is carefully weighing the acceptability of the Chinese movie market. Marvel has made considerable profits from the Chinese market. The box office take for Avengers: Age of Ultron alone was $240 million in China. China is expected to surpass North America as the world's biggest movie market next year. With the booming of the Chinese movie market, recent years have seen Hollywood increasingly catering to Chinese audiences. Box office revenue in China has transformed how Hollywood depicts China. Hollywood has almost become the most friendly cultural community to China.

This may upset some US political and cultural elites and frustrate overseas forces hostile against China. But it's impossible for Hollywood to sacrifice commercial interests for those political favors. Filmmakers care more about how to adapt Hollywood rules to the circumstances of the Chinese market. Despite this repeated criticism in the West, flexibility is important for Hollywood's growth, which enables the industry to be more open than its competitors and better at compromising. Being soft perhaps is more powerful than being tough and compromising may reward more in return. We can learn from how Hollywood deals with the China factor. 

China is on track to surpass the US as the biggest movie market. It's a huge leverage. But there is a long way ahead of us to be a global movie producing center.

Posted in: Editorial

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