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Chinese communist censorship changes ending of minions movie to further regime agenda


Universal Pictures’ Minions: The Rise of Gru is the latest film in the Despicable Me franchise. It debuted in the US on July 1 and was released in China on August 19. Moviegoers have noticed a significant difference between the ending of the film’s Chinese release and the ending first shown elsewhere in the world last month.

In the international release, the franchise’s protagonist and anti-hero Gru, voiced by Steve Carell, drives away with supervillain Wild Knuckles, who faked his own death to avoid jail time.

Instead, Wild Knuckles remains trapped in the Chinese version, which is said to be one minute longer while it is said that Gru “will be one of the good guys.”

This alternate ending is conveyed in part by a series of subtitled stills, which claim that Wild Knuckles was imprisoned for 20 years, during which time he formed a theater company and put his otherwise criminal talents to good use. Gru, reportedly turning his back on a life of crime, instead devoted himself to raising his family. According to the Chinese edition, Gru’s “greatest achievement is being the father of his three girls.”

The BBC reported that the appeal to three children could be linked to the Chinese Communist Party’s promotion of its recent three-child policy, an attempt to counter the country’s declining fertility rate and shortage of women of child-bearing age, which has fallen to half a billion is due to abortions.

While some have criticized the change, suggest that the subtitled slides resemble a PowerPoint presentation, other film critics criticize what they perceive as infantilization.

“How weak and unjudgmental do you think our audience is?” asked DuSir, a film blogger with over 14 million followers on Chinese social media platform Weibo. He suggested that the censorship implied that only Chinese needed “special guidance and care.”

Moviegoers in China are well acquainted with the censorship and modification of Hollywood films.

In January It has been revealed that David Fincher’s 1999 film Fight Club also had a radically different ending. The version made available on Chinese streaming platform Tencent Video was missing the original ending scene, in which the anarchic antihero kills his alter ego and then watches as skyscrapers explode and the cityscape bursts into flames.

In the Chinese edit, the scene was replaced with a caption that reads, “By tip from Tyler, the police quickly figured out the whole plan and arrested all the criminals, successfully preventing the bomb from detonating. After the trial, Tyler was sent to the mental asylum for psychological treatment. He was discharged from the hospital in 2012.”

Communist Chinese censorship were obvious in contrast to depictions of state impotence and successful anarchy. CNN reported in January that China’s Fight Club publisher, Pacific Audio & Video Co., is linked to state-owned Guandong Radio and Television.

David Fincher answered: “If you don’t like this story, why would you license this film?” Human Rights Watch called the edited result “dystopian”.

A slightly less edited version was released in February after the backlash, just leave it out this time a scene with nudity.

The content of Hollywood movies isn’t the only thing that’s changed for Chinese audiences.

In Chinese promotions for Disney’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the black protagonist is played by John Boyega was shrunk on the movie poster by over 50%. Lupita Nyong’o, another black actor in the film, was cut entirely from the poster and replaced with an enlarged robot.

In 2018, posters promoting “Black Panther” in China had the face of Chadwick Boseman coveredwhich was not the case elsewhere in the world.

Hollywood also has a track record of self-censorship to cater to the Chinese market.

Screenrant reported that the Mandarin, the villain in Iron Man 3, although Asian in the comics, was made a white male to avoid offending Chinese censorship. The film had several scenes with Chinese actors anyway, which were censored.

The 2012 remake of Red Dawn was originally intended to feature Chinese communist forces as enemy invaders, but late in development the filmmakers swapped China for North Korea.

In the James Bond film Skyfall, the Chinese release censored several scenes in which the protagonist defeated men of Chinese descent. Chinese communist censorship changes ending of Minions movie to further regime agenda

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Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.