Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) introduced legislation Tuesday that would cut off cooperation between the Pentagon and movie studios that alter their films to appease Chinese censors.
The bill, referred to as the "SCRIPT Act," limits or prohibits the use of Defense Department resources for films that self-censor in order to be screened in China.
"From buying media outlets to broadcast propaganda into America to coercing Hollywood studios and sports leagues to self-censor by threatening to cut off access to one of the biggest markets for sports and entertainment in the world, the Chinese Communist Party spends billions and billions of dollars to mislead Americans about China and shape what our citizens see, hear, and think," Cruz said in a statement.
He described the act as a "wakeup call" that could force Hollywood studios to choose between receiving aid from the American government and benefiting from the Chinese moviegoing market.
Major Hollywood studios have edited films to appeal to Chinese audiences and get past Chinese censors. American-produced films, however, saw their share of the Chinese box office shrink in 2019. Only two Hollywood films were among the top-10 highest grossing films in China last year.
Disney-owned Marvel Studios, which has produced the highest grossing film series in Hollywood history, has repeatedly edited films to appeal to the Chinese market. Doctor Strange changed a prominent comic-book character's origins from Tibetan to Celtic to avoid clashes with the Chinese government. Iron Man 3 inserted scenes specifically for the Chinese release.
20th Century Fox, which was recently acquired by Disney, removed one minute of content from Bohemian Rhapsody, including a same-sex kiss, to secure a release in China.
Paramount's Top Gun: Maverick, scheduled for release later this year, altered the title character's jacket to remove two patches with the Taiwanese and Japanese flags. Tencent, a Chinese conglomerate, is a partner in producing the film.
MGM spent $1 million reediting the Red Dawn remake, released in 2012, to change the film's villains from Chinese to North Korean.