Ghosts, gay love and anti-government conspiracies: 5 films changed by China


A revamp of Fight Club’s anarchist ending for Tencent Video in China has sparked controversy among fans, but censors have a long history of demise point

fight club was already mired in controversy when it hit theaters in 1999, drawing criticism for its brutal violence,”nihilistic» vision of the world and representation of toxic masculinity (before the term was widely adopted to describe the kind of insecure, hyper-macho behavior that fuels its narrator and split personality, played by Edward Norton and brad pitt).

“It’s a film that smugly, in a very controversial way, flirts with some of the intellectual and cultural paraphernalia of fascism,” film critic Peter Bradshaw wrote in a 1999 article. Guardian review. Stephen Hunter, of Washington Post, seemed to agree, describing the film as: “a para-fascist parable… a hymn to anarchy and chaos.”

Now, however, David Fincher Fight club – widely considered a cult classic, along with Chuck Palahniuk’s novel of the same name – is sparking a different kind of outrage, following its debut on Chinese streaming service Tencent Video.

As pointed out fight club fans in China this weekend, the version on Tencent Video features a particularly different ending to the original film, which (spoiler alert) sees Norton’s character, the Narrator, kill his alter-ego before seeing several skyscrapers explode in part of a scheme to cancel credit card debt.

In the version broadcast in China, however, things take a very different turn after the narrator kills Durden, with the state stepping in to save the day, foiling the anti-establishment scheme. Whether or not you agree with the movie’s message, morally speaking, it’s pretty clear that this edit completely misses the point, as many viewers on social media have pointed out.

This isn’t the first time, however, that a film has undergone substantial – and controversial – changes in order to secure distribution in China. Many Hollywood studios have made major changes to the final cut of their films in order to gain access to the largest film market in the world (at a reported ¥47 billion, or £5.5 billion).

Below, we take a look at some of the worst and weirdest edits the movies have undergone to circumvent China’s increasingly stringent cultural repression.

“Thanks to the clue provided by Tyler, the police quickly figured out the whole plan and arrested all the criminals, successfully preventing the bomb from detonating,” reads the happily eternal coda of the new version of fight club for Chinese audiences. “After the trial, Tyler was sent to an insane asylum for psychological treatment. He was released from hospital in 2012.

Needless to say, this conclusion is a far cry from the iconic Pixies explosion scene that unfolded in Fincher’s Cut in 1999. With Tencent declining to comment on the matter, however, it’s unclear if the changes have were brought in by the film’s original producers to generate more international revenue, or were ordered by government censors.

by Quentin Tarantino Django Unchained – starring Jamie Foxx and a whole host of Tarantino favorites – actually slipped through the cracks in 2013, making it the first of the director’s ultra-violent films to be approved for official distribution in the Chinese market. Hours into the premiere, however, it was abruptly removed, with officials refusing to give a reason for its removal.

Ironically, the revisionist western then had to be revised before it was allowed to return to Chinese theaters about a month later. The edits mostly revolved around graphic footage, which also caused controversy in the United States ahead of the film’s premiere.

According to Zhang Miao, then president of the Chinese branch of Sony Pictures, Tarantino had his say on these changes, which included “set the blood to a darker color” or reduce the height of its blood splatter. “Quentin was able to adjust that, and he has to be the one to do it,” Miao told China’s Southern Metropolis Daily in 2013 (via yahoo). “You can make suggestions to him, but he has to be the one doing (the setting).”

Brian Singer’s 2018 biopic Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody, already unhappy with Freddie Mercury fans through omitting his battle with AIDS – a defining feature of the leader’s life and legacy – in favor of focusing on the “fabulous Queen years”. In China, however, the film went even further, completely glossing over her sexuality.

Several minutes of footage were reportedly cut from the film under pressure from Chinese censors, including scenes of a mule Rami Malek kissing another man, and characters simply saying the word “gay”. Other clips that were boxed included a close-up of Mercury’s crotch as he performed, and footage of the band dressing in women’s clothing for their “I want to free myself”. Video clip.

“Why is it necessary to remove gay-related content? asked a Weibo user after watching the edited version (via BBC). “A person’s life… doesn’t it deserve to be complete?”

However, China has a long history of censoring LGBTQ+ content. Despite the fact that homosexuality had been legal in the country for more than two decades at the time Bohemian Rhapsody broadcast, Xi Jinping’s “anti-corruption” efforts have also seen the government block gay representation on television and social media apps like TikTok during the last years.

Did you find the Wachowskis cloud atlas incomprehensible the first time? Well, try watching it with almost 40 minutes of story completely missing. This was the task presented to the public when the film premiered in China in 2013.

Overtly sexual content is commonly cited as the reason for the many edits, with a central romance between Ben Whishaw and James D’Arcy’s characters once again raising concerns about China’s treatment of LGBTQ+ media. In the end, however, the edit removed the gay and straight sex scenes (but not the gory sequences that showed characters being shot in the head or having their throats slit – go figure).

According to Hollywood journalist, none of the film’s three directors – Lana and Lilly Wachowski, and Tom Tykwer – were involved in the re-edited 130-minute cut, but handed it over to their Chinese co-producers. Later, cloud atlasUS-based producers noted they were “unaware” of the cuts. Lana Wachowski also voiced her own complaints after the China premiere, saying: “This really sucks… but I believe you can watch the full version online.”

At Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak fell fairly flat at the US box office in 2015, debuting at $12.6 million against a budget of $55 million. Producers, however, have set their sights on China in hopes of overseas success to save the day (as happened with del Toro’s Pacific Rim two years before). As it happens, gothic romance never reached China, and many believe that’s due to the ruling party’s secular rejection of ghosts.

Apparently, this is one of the common rules for movies to enter the Chinese market. No ghosts, no gays, no plots to bring down the government (at least the successful ones). 2016 by Paul Feig ghost hunters the reboot also suffered the same fate, not because of targeted hate from its all-female cast – racist keyboard warriors had this cover – but because of its supernatural subject matter. Even after the film’s title was reworked as Super Power Dare Die Team, presumably to distance it from its ghostly theme, it was banned in China.

There are, however, ways to circumvent the no-ghost rule in China. One solution is to suggest that anyone who sees ghosts in the film universe is either crazy or under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs. Yes fight clubthe new ending is something to skip, the filmmakers could also just add a written warning: They woke up and realized it was all just a dream.


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