Ted Cruz Takes Aim at China, Accusing Hollywood of Bowing to Its Censors

May 21, 2020 by Dan McCue
Sen. Ted Cruz. (Screen grab from CSPAN)

WASHINGTON – Sen. Ted Cruz on Thursday introduced a bill on the floor of the Senate that could have a profound effect on American movie studios as it aims to stop Chinese censorship of Hollywood films.

American studios have long allowed Chinese censors to make changes to their film because the huge Chinese market — with 1.3 billion potential moviegoers — is so lucrative.

In 2019, China’s box office revenues were a record $9.2 billion, having risen 54% over the previous year, according to Variety.

But Cruz said in a nearly empty Senate chamber Thursday that complying with the edits is tantamount to helping China engage in an anti-American and anti-West propaganda campaign.

In drafting The Stopping Censorship, Restoring Integrity, Protecting Talkies Act (SCRIPT Act), Cruz had originally said he intended to cut off any assistance by the Department of Defense to those film studios that submit their films to Chinese censors.

The bill he actually introduced Thursday, went even further, including all federal agencies.

Movie studios regularly turn to the federal government seeking permission to use everything from logos and uniforms, to military bases and government-owned buildings for shooting locations.

While the bill, if passed, would surely disrupt business-as-usual, it stops short of ordering American filmmakers to cut ties with China.

As he rolled out the bill, Cruz warned that Hollywood needs to be “vigilant about the Chinese government’s attempts to censor and silence elsewhere, including our own nation.”

During his soliloquy, Cruz name-checked a number of Hollywood films.

One act of Chinese censorship particularly irksome to the senator involves Tom Cruise’s character in the forthcoming Top Gun sequel, Top Gun: Maverick.

Cruz highlighted the character’s bomber jacket had been stripped of Japanese and Taiwanese flags in promotional images and trailers — thought to be done in deference to Chinese censors.

“What message does it send that Maverick, an American icon, is apparently afraid of the Chinese communists?” Cruz said. “That’s ridiculous.”

“In Bohemian Rhapsody, the Chinese Communist Party edited out references to the fact that Freddie Mercury was gay,” the senator said. “In Dr. Strange, they changed the Ancient One’s character from Tibetan, as portrayed in the comic book, to Celtic.”

Cruz’s attack on Chinese censors comes at a time when the Chinese government is trying to salvage its image on the world stage in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

China has been accused of suppressing the fact the virus originated in its city of Wuhan and maintaining a level of secrecy that helped the virus spread globally.

In a statement, Cruz said, “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. 

“All of these activities are part of China’s whole-of-state approach to amass more influence around the world through information warfare, and we need to put a stop to it,” he continued. “For too long, Hollywood has been complicit in China’s censorship and propaganda in the name of bigger profits.

“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,” Cruz said.

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