As of today, the Chinese people are finally able to see Django Unchained after waiting the four months it took Sony to censor the film. Think about that – four months. A third of a year. Half a baby. That’s a long time to wait for movie about white guilt and ruined carpeting.
But the Chinese moviegoing populace doesn’t seem to mind. ‘Django‘ is the first Tarantino film allowed in China and (provided that they haven’t seen the illegal dub of Pulp Fiction) the first Tarantino film the Chinese people have ever seen. However, with its extensive edits and reworked narrative can this new cut reach the same level of success it had in the West?
I say no and here’s why.
The Chinese government approves an average of three Hollywood movies per month. That’s about 20% the output of our major releases, which haven’t stopped coming in weekly intervals since children stopped smoking. Coincidentally, child-friendly movies are China’s favorite Hollywood import. Kung Fu Panda made a ton of artificially deflated money in 2008, beating out box office juggernaut The Dark Knight. Not too much of a stretch considering that The Dark Knight is about questioning authority and Kung Fu Panda is the least offensive movie on the planet.
Is this because China treats its film audience like children? More dignified writers would say that the situation is nuanced, that thought-provoking cinema is a foreign concept and they are fiercely proud of their traditions. Luckily, I am not a dignified writer, so I will say yes. Their government is like a naïve father who still tells his daughter the ‘stork’ story, even after she’s slept with half the football team.
And with the release of shoddy propaganda films like The Beginning of the Great Revival, it looks like that’s not changing any time soon. I hoped that Django‘s release would mark a new beginning in China’s road to globalization, but editing the film with a political agenda in mind will just ruin what made the film popular in the first place. The censors claimed that only the violent parts were toned down but do you believe them? Avatar is China’s highest grossing foreign film and it’s as violent as any other movie about genocide.
So what’s the real problem? Django is about a slave who rises up against his oppressors and saves the day, right? Maybe their government doesn’t want to encourage rebellious thought?
Shut up, high-school Nick. Avatar follows the same arc and China accepted it without issue. Even if the story were incendiary they could relabel the villains. The censors’ problem with Django Unchained is not the plot, its the complexity. Avatar has a clear message and a cookie cutter villain; *SPOILER* Django’s mentor starts out as eccentric and wise but ends up crazy and dead. China likes its motives simple and unchanging. The fictional authority can’t be corrupted because that would mean the real world authority can be corrupted. How can could you possibly save that in editing?
I’m seriously asking that question to anyone who can answer it. If you have access to the Chinese edition of Django Unchained PLEASE send it to me. It might just be the greatest, stupidest, most incoherent film in existence.