Chinese government censors have decided to allow Django Unchained, the new Quentin Tarantino film about an ex-slave teaming up with a bounty hunter to take revenge on his former master, wide release in Chinese theaters. With typical Tarantino levels of violence and obscenity, it’s not exactly the kind of movie usually distributed on the mainland. Quartz explains:
China allows only 34 foreign films into the country every year, screening them for violence, sex, and sensitive political content. Because the country doesn’t use a film rating system, films are supposed to be “suitable for all ages,” and censors have been known to get hung up on all kinds of weird things. Karate Kid‘s debut in China was delayed because censors took issue with the presence of a Chinese villain; they also didn’t like that the stumbling main character in Kung Fu Panda is China’s national symbol. Recently, state censors cut 38 minutes, mostly of love scenes, from Cloud Atlas as well as a few scenes and dialogue from Skyfall.
Tarantino’s story of a slave’s revenge on his white master includes a healthy dose of bloody violence, nudity, and bad language—more problematic, it would seem, than a panda performing kung fu. This would be the first time a Tarantino film has debuted in Chinese movie theaters. The movie’s backers Sony Pictures Entertainment and The Weinstein Co. haven’t responded to our request for comment, but what gives? . . .
Perhaps another reason is that the film depicts one of America’s darker periods, when slavery was legal, which Chinese officials like to use to push back against criticism from the United States. In 2010, Beijing called the US a hypocrite for criticizing China’s human rights record.
Moreover, in classrooms and in state propaganda, America’s seizure of land from Native Americans and the US Civil War are well covered as a way to justify to Chinese citizens that every country fights for its territorial integrity. In other words, China is no different for insisting that Tibet, Xinjiang, and eventually Taiwan, be part of the mainland at all costs.
Quartz’s inferences seem reasonable — it wasn’t so long ago, of course, that the Soviet Union’s retort to American moral judgment was, “but what about the blacks in the South?” It’s not clear, though, if Chinese resentments will be mollified by seeing on the silver screen and in their textbooks that America once perpetrated ostensibly similar acts.