Maverick’ for defying Chinese censorship

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Maverick' for defying Chinese censorship

Tom Cruise on the set of Top Gun.

Outstanding Images | Sunset Boulevard | Corbis | Getty Images

After 36 years, the sequel to the Tom Cruise classic Top Gun is a critical and commercial success, grossing $248 million at the worldwide box office in its opening weekend. In Taiwan, it’s celebrated for another reason: not to flatter China.

In 2019, the trailer for Top Gun: Maverick featured Cruise’s character, US Navy pilot Pete Mitchell, in the same bomber jacket he wore in the original film. But two of its flag patches – representing Japan and the Republic of China, the official name for Taiwan – appeared to have been replaced by other emblems.

The move was criticized at the time as an act of self-censorship to please China’s censorship. Beijing regards Taiwan, a self-governing democracy of 24 million people, as an inalienable part of its territory and rejects any reference to it as a sovereign nation.

After 36 years, the sequel to the Tom Cruise classic Top Gun is a critical and commercial success, grossing $248 million at the worldwide box office in its opening weekend. In Taiwan, it’s celebrated for another reason: not to flatter China.

In 2019, the trailer for Top Gun: Maverick featured Cruise’s character, US Navy pilot Pete Mitchell, in the same bomber jacket he wore in the original film. But two of its flag patches – representing Japan and the Republic of China, the official name for Taiwan – appeared to have been replaced by other emblems.

The move was criticized at the time as an act of self-censorship to please China’s censorship. Beijing regards Taiwan, a self-governing democracy of 24 million people, as an inalienable part of its territory and rejects any reference to it as a sovereign nation.

Hollywood often defers to Beijing’s sensibilities to access and profit from the lucrative Chinese market. Last year, Fast & Furious actor John Cena apologized in Mandarin to his Chinese fans for calling Taiwan a country during a promotional tour for the franchise’s latest film.

Experts say the inclusion of the Taiwanese flag in Top Gun: Maverick may signal Hollywood’s departure from its culture of deference to China’s red lines.

‚ÄúThere have been several cases recently where big-budget US films have failed to enter the Chinese market. Studios are aware of this and are making business decisions,” said Aynne Kokas, associate professor of media studies at the University of Virginia and author of Hollywood Made in China.

Hollywood blockbusters, including the Marvel films Eternals and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, have been kept off Chinese screens after directors or actors involved in the films made critical comments about China.

The Chinese tech giant Tencent announced in 2019 that it would invest in the sequel to Top Gun; It later withdrew over concerns that its support for a film with strong pro-US military themes would anger ruling Communist Party officials, the Wall Street Journal reported last week, citing people familiar with the funding.

NBC News has solicited comment from Paramount Pictures as well as Tencent offices in China, where Friday was a public holiday, and Los Angeles.

Since Top Gun: Maverick is unlikely to be released in mainland China, filmmakers would have more flexibility in making decisions, Kokas said.

“Especially for a film like ‘Top Gun: Maverick,’ a tribute to the US military that’s releasing in time for the Memorial Day holiday in the US, there’s a clear incentive to play to the film’s most trusted audiences.” , she said. “and it seems to have paid off financially.”

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