The Paramount film studio's recent decision to censor portions of its remake of the classic film Top Gun to appease Chinese Communist Party propaganda rules is the clearest sign to date that "Hollywood is afraid to stand up for free speech," Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) told the Washington Free Beacon.
Following its premiere last week at the Comic-Con 2019 gathering, fans on the internet quickly found that the iconic jacket worn by lead actor Tom Cruise in the film had been altered from its original look to remove two patches displaying the Japanese and Taiwanese flags. It was soon pointed out these patches were altered in order to appease the Chinese Communist Party and ensure the film can be run in the lucrative, but highly censored, market.
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"There's a new Top Gun movie coming out. And [Cruise's character] Maverick is wearing the same leather jacket—only this time it's Communist Party of China-approved, so the Japanese and Taiwanese flag patches are gone," Mark MacKinnon, a senior international correspondent for the Globe and Mail, wrote in a tweet that has since garnered thousands of retweets and comments.
There’s a new Top Gun movie coming out. And Maverick is wearing the same leather jacket – only this time it’s Communist Party of China-approved, so the Japanese and Taiwanese flag patches are gone (screenshot on right is from the new trailer)… pic.twitter.com/gUxFNFNUKX
— Mark MacKinnon (@markmackinnon) July 19, 2019
Subsequent reports in the Hollywood press indicate that the Chinese internet giant Tencent co-financed the Top Gun remake along with Paramount, a further indication that the film was changed in order to appease the Communist Party.
"Suspicions have been heightened by the fact that Tencent Pictures, the film division of Chinese internet giant Tencent, is a co-financier of the new Top Gun movie," the Hollywood Reporter disclosed. "Tencent also is a part-owner of David Ellison's Skydance, which is co-producing the film with Paramount."
Such censorship is nothing new. Hollywood studios have a history of bending to the Chinese Communist Party's restrictive content regulations in order to ensure that one of the largest foreign movie markets can consume their films.
"Even without the direct involvement of Chinese investors, Hollywood studios have for years avoided storylines, characters or even visual elements that could conceivably cause offense to either Beijing authorities or nationalistic segments of the Chinese audience," the Hollywood Reporter noted.
The rush by studios such as Paramount to censor films is beginning to rile members of Congress, some of whom view the situation as untenable and are working on legislative remedies to stop studios from kowtowing to China's restrictive government.
"Top Gun is an American classic, and it's incredibly disappointing to see Hollywood elites appease the Chinese Communist Party," Cruz told the Free Beacon. "The Party uses China's economy to silence dissent against its brutal repression and to erode the sovereignty of American allies like Taiwan. Hollywood is afraid to stand up for free speech and is enabling the Party's campaign against Taiwan."
A senior GOP congressional official working on the matter said many lawmakers are beginning to pay attention to Hollywood's willingness to censor itself.
"Concern about China has been heating up, but so far it's been a slow burn," said the source, who would only speak on background about ongoing matters. "It's going to take something people can understand to shake lawmakers awake. This Top Gun controversy isn't a military attack or anything like that, but it's so brazen and outrageous that maybe a few more people will pay attention. The current situation, where China slowly gets Americans to self-censor, just isn't sustainable."