The American film “Fight Club” staring Edward Norton and Brad Pitt has finally made its way to China, though with a few minor changes.
The film was released on Tencent Video (腾讯视频) and viewers quickly spotted the changes. It is likely that many had seen the movie before as it is not impossible to “jump the wall” of Chinese censorship with a VPN, though that is getting more difficult.
I won’t spoil the now 23 year-old movie for anyone that might have not seen it, but suffice it to say that the ending is a bit on the anarchistic, anti-authority side, something the Beijing authorities want no part of. While I won’t ruin the original I will share with you that the Chinese version ends with the main characters getting arrested by the police.
FIGHT CLUB’s ending for the Chinese release (on Tencent Video) was changed to this and now I’m waiting for someone to fanfic a sequel based on this censored ending. pic.twitter.com/zYB0bY3Dlp
— Courtney Howard @ #Sundance (@Lulamaybelle) January 24, 2022
This twist ending, reminiscent of if M. Night Shyamalan was a blue lives matter activist, is obviously absurd. Though it fits with the CCP’s narrative quite well, “we’re always watching and you’ll never get away with it.” While this seems ridiculous it is probably much more common than you realize.
First people must know that China only allows in 34 foreign films for screening per year. Of course the bootleg movie industry is still thriving and now with online pirating and streaming, it is easier than ever for Chinese audiences to see films from abroad in all their uncensored glory. The more concerning aspect is that Hollywood is actually censoring themselves to get on that exclusive list of movies show in China.
A simple online search will come back with more lists than you can count of movies that did China’s censorship for them. Sometimes this just includes adding in extra Chinese actors to make the audiences feel more at home, which is whatever, representation does matter. Sometimes it is small things that just make me pity Chinese audiences, like James Cameron deciding to cut Kate Winslet’s exposed breasts from the Chinese cut of Titanic, as China bans all “pornographic” content, even if it is used artistically. I mean that’s just sad, Chinese youths never got to experience that wonderful scene.
Blockbusters are the biggest culprit of this, obviously as they have the most to lose monetarily speaking. This is why you can hear about Marvel movies or cash cows like Transformers, routinely self-censoring to get a better chance at that sweet, sweet Chinese box office money. An example of this is the 2016 movie, “Doctor Strange”.
The creators of the movie decided to cast Tilda Swinton as a much whiter version of the Ancient One, this character is traditionally Tibetan, and as we all know Tibet is a bit of a sensitive topic with the CCP, being they invaded it and run it like a modern day colony (but discussion of the ethnic genocide going on in Tibet is for another article). They also conveniently moved Strange’s place of spiritual training from Tibet to Nepal, again much less sensitive for the extremely touchy Chinese government.
While I suppose we can take some solace in the fact that most of the movies that are censored for Chinese audiences are generally utter trash anyway, it is concerning, though not surprising, that Hollywood would change what they consider their artistic expression (though I’m not sure you can call anthropomorphized cars farting on screen art) to appease a dictatorial government and make some extra money.
Hopefully Hollywood grows a backbone, laughable I know, or that the American, and international, film audiences demand more from their entertainment and creators. Chinese audiences deserve good films and Kate Winslet’s breasts just like the rest of us.