When the trailer to the new “Top Gun” sequel dropped, excitement arose in the hearts of every moviegoer in America, especially men of all ages. The new movie seemed to have every element of the 1986 original, fast planes, exuberant pilots (this time including women) and, of course, Maverick, played by Tom Cruise as a kind of navy aviator in winter. Mav is at the end of his career, still a Captain, in charge of the Top Gun school that turns aviators into aerial killers. When told that his kind will soon be obsolete and gone, he wryly replies, “Maybe, but not today.”
On the face of it, audiences were in for some patriotic fun that the movies have seen too little of. But then, some sharp-eyed movie fans saw something in the trailer that gave them pause.
In the original movie, Maverick wore a flight jacket that displayed the flags of some of the countries where he had been posted. He wears a similar jacket in the upcoming movie as well, but this time with some conspicuous alterations. The flags of Japan and Taiwan are missing.
The new “Top Gun” movie was co-financed by a Chinese internet giant called Tencent. Japan is considered an enemy of the People’s Republican of China. The Chinese considered Taiwan, which has been a sovereign country since the late 1940s, to be a breakaway province that will be reconquered as soon as Beijing finds it convenient.
China has had an outsized influence on the content that Hollywood produces because of the size of that country’s movie market. China can offer a billion moviegoers to fill the coffers of any studio whose films are approved to be shown inside the PRC.
That approval comes with a price. No film that can be shown in China will depict China in a bad light. There can be no mention of China’s human rights records, no depiction of that country’s aggressive, imperialist foreign policy.
Indeed, it is better for any American movie if it favorably depicts China. The requirement is one reason by “The Martian” had a subplot shoehorned into it that has the Chinese space agency attempting to help the American astronaut who was trapped on Mars.
So long as Beijing maintains its iron grip on Hollywood, no Chinese villain will be cast in any movie. James Bond will never tangle with a Chinese version of Ernst Stavro Blofeld. The Marvel Avengers will not stop a plot by a Chinese mad scientist to take over the world., And, needless to say, Maverick and his heroic naval aviators will never tangle with Chinese fighters over the South China Sea.
The incident of the altered flight jacket may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. According to the Washington Free Beacon, none other than Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas has taken notice and demands that something is done.
“Top Gun is an American classic, and it’s incredibly disappointing to see Hollywood elites appease the Chinese Communist Party. The Party uses China’s economy to silence dissent against its brutal repression and to erode the sovereignty of American allies like Taiwan. Hollywood is afraid to stand up for free speech and is enabling the Party’s campaign against Taiwan.”
Some evidence exists that Congress is starting to think about ways to deal with the situation. The kowtowing of Hollywood to Beijing is said to be not sustainable.
The National Review weighed in on the issue and noted that Hollywood has a long history of bowing to the demands of totalitarian regimes.
“All of this is reminiscent of another time when Hollywood bent low and bowed before foreign censors. In his book The Collaboration: Hollywood’s Pact with Hitler (2013), Harvard scholar Ben Urwand found that Hollywood studios agreed not to make films that attacked Nazis or that depicted their harsh treatment of Jews. With barely a whimper, studios gave the Nazis veto power over films depicting almost every aspect of Nazi Germany.”
It was only after Pearl Harbor that Hollywood started churching out content that attacked the Third Reich and exposed it for the evil regime that it was. Many of those films were forgettable propaganda. Some, like “Casablanca,” became eternal classics.
Film studio heads reply that they are just bending to commercial realities. The statement is a true one, both in the 1930s and now. However, as the National Review notes, the film industry is choosing profits over patriotism at the cost of whatever credibility it has about any political or social issue. An industry that bows to the tyrants of Beijing has no business, say, lecturing Georgia about a woman’s right to choose an abortion.