Want The Pentagon's Help With A Film? Sen. Ted Cruz Plans To Make That Impossible If A Studio Bows To Chinese Censorship

(AP Photo/Nick Ut)

 

Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz has plans to introduce legislation when the Senate is back in session that will ultimately present film studios with an intriguing Sophie’s Choice of a sort: defer to the First Amendment or defer to Chinese Communist propaganda guidelines — but only the former allows you to work with the Pentagon.

Cleverly calling his legislation “The Stopping Censorship, Restoring Integrity, Protecting Talkies Act” (SCRIPT Act), the bill, according to a report from Politico, would “block cooperation between the U.S. Defense Department and any film studios that edit or alter their movies for audiences in China.”

If that sounds like a minor issue, consider that the U.S. Department of Defense has helped film studios make over 800 films since 1917 and some of them are massive blockbusters, including some in the Marvel Universe canon like the perennially adored Iron Man. And further consider that Hollywood has been known to make subtle but unnerving changes to meet Chinese censors’ demands and/or help films rake in piles of dough from Asian audiences. From Politico:

Film studios often edit their films before they air in China, as they seek to court audiences there by pacifying the country’s strict censorship rules. For instance, a scene about Freddie Mercury’s sexuality disappeared from the version of Bohemian Rhapsody that played for Chinese audiences, as the AP detailed. The cuts came after a government-linked TV association called homosexuality “abnormal” and admonished studios not to depict it, per the wire service. And MGM re-edited its remake of Red Dawn to depict the North Koreans, rather than the Chinese, as occupying America. They made the overhaul because of concerns about angering China’s censors, according to The Los Angeles Times. Chinese government censors also frown upon a host of other topics that appear commonly in American movies, including some depictions of violence, according to Cnet, and –– per CNN –– “excessive smoking” and cleavage.

Cruz himself, last year, told the Washington Free Beacon of his disappointment that U.S. studios were afraid to “stand up for free speech” when it was reported that a remake of Tom Cruise’s iconic Top Gun had altered Maverick’s famous leather jacket by removing the Japanese and Taiwanese flags.

Almost a year later, the Senator has decided to alleviate his disappointment with a bill that requires studios to promise not to censor their films if they want the Pentagon’s help; and would bar the Pentagon from working with films that have recently altered their product to meet Chinese censors’ demands.

“For too long, Hollywood has been complicit in China’s censorship and propaganda in the name of bigger profits,” Cruz said in a statement announcing the proposed legislation. “The SCRIPT Act will serve as a wake-up call by forcing Hollywood studios to choose between the assistance they need from the American government and the dollars they want from China.”