Hollywood has fallen into disfavor in China due to its distorted values and competition from Asian films, not politics
Published: Dec 23, 2021 06:23 PM
Chloe Zhao attends the 'Eternals' photocall on October 25, 2021 in Rome, Italy. Photo: VCG

Chloe Zhao attends the 'Eternals' photocall on October 25, 2021 in Rome, Italy. Photo: VCG

Hollywood falling into disfavor in Chinese film market is mainly due to its distorted values of "political correctness" and improper use of Chinese elements in their films, and its dominating position in the world is being threatened by high quality films from other countries including South Korea and India. It is not politics that drive the world's largest film market, but film quality and the tastes of the audience. 

Hollywood Reporter on Monday reported that the cooling off of the Hollywood-Chinese film market romance is mainly due to the impact of the Chinese government, but this is totally wrong. The fact that The Matrix Resurrections will be released in the Chinese mainland on January 14, 2022, refutes this take. 

China has not refused to give opportunities to Hollywood, but it is just that Hollywood has shot itself in the foot by making a lot of films with problematic values in order to pursue "political correctness."

Take Eternals for example, one scene sees a black gay superhero kneel and burst into tears after the atomic bomb is dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. If this film had been released in the Chinese mainland, one can only imagine what the reaction of Chinese moviegoers would be to this outrageous scene, especially amid China's National Memorial Day, a day of remembrance that pays tribute to the 300,000 casualties of the notorious Nanjing Massacre in WWII. If such a massacre had happened in the US, what would Americans think about the film?

Eternals takes Hollywood's twisted "political correctness" to its extreme.

Meanwhile, many Hollywood films in recent years have led to another type of self-defeating result in the Chinese film market as studios rushed to add many Chinese elements to films to attract moviegoers, but failed as they did not really understand Chinese history or culture and so did not implement them correctly.

Disney's live-action film Mulan is one of the most reprehensive failed works in China. Its poor performance in the Chinese film market proves that trying to make a Chinese story without truly understanding Chinese culture cannot win the hearts of the Chinese audience. Then you have Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, a supposedly eye-catching "Asian superhero" story, which is actually full of stereotypes about China. 

Chinese audiences do not want such biased works released in their mother country. Should the Chinese film authority allow these films to enter just because they are Marvel films?

A drop in quality is another factor.

In 2019, Avengers: Endgame was a smashing success in China, but Wonder Women 1984 only grossed 167 million yuan ($26 million) in the mainland in 2020. Though the outbreak of the pandemic may be one reason for the poor box office, the film's poor quality is the largest factor behind its poor performance. 

It seems that Hollywood has not realized that it is gradually losing its advantage when you consider the high quality films coming out of Asia, such as hit films from South Korea and India. Films from neighboring countries have a much easier time arousing empathy among the Chinese audience. 

Since the film market also follows the law of survival of the fittest, it only makes sense that China has the right to pick which movies best fit the tastes of the Chinese audience.

Politics is not the biggest factor in any film market but rather films with good quality and the correct values that fit the tastes of the audience. If Hollywood continues creating works to adhere to the concept of "political correctness" or making tedious sequels starring fictional Western superheroes without any innovation, it will eventually be abandoned by the global market, especially the Chinese film market, one day.