On May 27 the movie “Kung Fu Panda 2” open in debuted in Chinese theatres much to the delight of the middle and upper class minorities would could afford to see it. A typical Western scene could be viewed in China as excited kids and parents stood in long lines to get tickets to see this latest Disney movie. However not everyone was happy with its opening, many, especially in the cinema circles, have called for the movie to be boycotted.
Some Chinese artists and scholars are calling for a boycott because the move, produced by DreamWorks, twists Chinese culture and serves as a tool to “kidnap” the mind of the Chinese people. The Chinese version of the film added more Chinese elements such as shadow play and lion dancing.
The American movie industry has a long history of appropriating foreign culture and homogenizing it into a commercial product intended for mass consumption. One doesn’t need to look an further than the whole “Latin Crazy” that appeared many years ago with the Macarena and then the creation of Ricky Martian. Disney in particular is pretty bad for this. The have quite a long history of cultural exploitation. Chinese elements have become advertising products to advocate American culture.
This is a common feature of imperialism, the domination of American culture over the one that exists domestically. Many Latin American countries face this as well. Much of the programing there is American with Spanish dubbing. The American content is made cheaply in the US and is then exported even cheaper to the developing world where it becomes impossible for domestic programming to compete economically for air time. Its the advantage that a concentration of capital has.
I can to some degree understand how the Chinese feel. The red coat and four-pointed hat of Royal Canadian Mounted Police is trademark of the Disney corporation. Chinese capitalism is no better, at one point the Chinese government tried to trade mark the dream catcher, a sacred native American symbol. Capitalism is destined to take everything and make it a commodity to be sold, even air. (Google bottled air in Japan.)
Much of the controversy is centred around the fact that the movie was opened just before Children’s day. Zhao Bandi, avant-garde artist, wrote an open letter to the move house managers of China:
“Children’s Day should be pure. Don’t turn it into a money-making day for Hollywood, and don’t fool our next generation with American ‘fast food’.”
– Zhao Bandi
The criticism is fair, Children’s Day in China was intended to put focus on children’s issues and to remind people that children are the future. This tradition of Children’s day in China began 1949 soon after the victory of the Chinese Communist revolution. Traditionally the government made it a half day for primary schools and provide free movies on Children’s Day to allow students to have fun.
It would be a shame for children’s day to be ruined by being turned into another commercialized holiday Christmas, Easter and the like. But that is what capitalism does, there is no sacred or personal, only marketable.