Top Gun is a 1986 movie about Tom Cruise flying a plane and being kind of a jerk. It's notable for its pervasive atmosphere of stylized eighties cool, its soundtrack featuring bad-ass Kenny Loggins songs, and its surfeit of nicknames (Goose, Maverick, Iceman, Jester, Viper, Merlin). It's also notable for being a fictional movie, i.e., totally made-up; 100% not real.
So why did a recent news broadcast on China Central Television appear to include clips of this movie? The CCTV broadcast was showing a report on the Chinese air force, and at one point they ran footage of a supposed training exercise. According to the newscast, the footage depicted a Chinese J-10 fighter blowing another plane out of the sky.
The problem, though, is that this looks exactly like a scene in Top Gun where Tom Cruise brings down an F-5. The explosion, the pattern of the shrapnel--it looks an awful lot like Top Gun. Like maybe CCTV just grabbed a scene from Top Gun and stuck it in their broadcast and said "Yeah, this is what happened today." The blog Ministry of Tofu has a side-by-side comparison of the movie and the newscast, so you can judge for yourself.
According to BBC News, this kind of thing is not unheard of in China:
One person familiar with the way CCTV works said this would not be the first time movie footage was used in a news report. "There are other cases of the deliberate use of inappropriate footage," he said. Sometimes it happened because picture editors and reporters were being lazy, or the footage was simply too good not to use, said the source. It occurs mostly in stories about the military, or science and technology. This is because it can be difficult to spot inconsistencies. CCTV does not always tell viewers the footage is not genuine or pay royalties for the film and TV clips it uses.
Actually, now that we're thinking about it, we do remember seeing other Chinese news broadcasts that looked a little suspicious. Like this report about the 2010 midterm elections, or this segment about the Newsweek-Daily Beast merger, or this piece about the closing ceremonies at Vancouver's Winter Games last year.
Note: none of these are actual broadcasts, and they do not accurately reflect what goes on at a Chinese news stations. This accurately reflects what goes on at a Chinese news station.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.