The 1984 version of Red Dawn was flag-waving enough for National Review to single it out in 2009 as the 15th best conservative movie of the past 25 years. We're not sure what criteria was used to make selection--the movie features lots of wholesome Midwestern kids who fight Soviet troops and generally seem to thrive in the absence of a strong, centralized government. Or maybe it was just the fact nobody involved in the production kow-towed to a foreign power when they asked not to be depicted as the bad guys.
The same cannot be said of MGM, the studio behind the modern remake of the film set to be. When filming on the project began two years ago, it was agreed that Chinese villains would replace Soviets as the film's antagonists. But after looking at the finished product, write Ben Fritz and John Horn in The Los Angeles Times, distributors feared the film could "harm their ability to do business with the rising Asian superpower, one of the fastest-growing and potentially most lucrative markets for American movies" unless radical changes were made.
They were, in a series of maneuvers that, as detailed by Fritz and Horn, weren't cuts as much as they were amputations of the plot. Along with "digitally erasing Chinese flags and military symbols" from sight, dialogue and plot was changed "to depict much of the invading force as being from North Korea, an isolated country where American media companies have no dollars at stake." (This change in particular renders the title Red Dawn--one of the only things in either version of the film that conclusively made sense--meaningless.)
Fritiz and Horn note the project attracted scathing criticism from the communist-backed Global Times newspaper. Indeed, a June 2010 editorial in the paper from Wu Meng does much to justify the studio's fear of alienating the Chinese. She cites "growing interest" between the two cultures warns about "a sense of misunderstanding, distrust and even fear can still be seen, especially between the two peoples at a non-governmental level." The she gets to the issue at hand. "A movie about the possibility of China invading the US should not cause concern," she says. "What really deserves attention is Americans' lack of understanding of Chinese."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.