Some DON’T like it hot: Countries where movies were censored
China’s propaganda department started regulating its film industry last year. The new structure came in the wake of a central government shake-up which included the elimination of the the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television (SAPPRFT) – the institute that had overseen the country’s media and entertainment industries for a generation.
While we’re not about to comment on the political state of China (we wouldn’t dare), we will say it’s a huge deal with regards to what will and won’t be seen by audiences in one of the most heavily populated countries in the world. In light of the situation, we’ve decided to look back to the past where other countries have done the same for some insight into what the future of viewership in China might look like.
Some Like It Hot (1959)
Some Like It Hot is one of the biggest comedy hits of all time, but upon its release in 1959, censors in Kansas decided their state would not like it hot at all. In the film, Jack Lemmon (Glengarry Glen Ross) and Tony Curtis (Sweet Smell of Success) play musicians who disguise themselves as women to hide from the mafia.
Censors felt the cross-dressing aspect would be too disturbing for Kansas audiences to handle (so shocking, right!? – Ahem). With the addition of Marilyn Monroe (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes) getting hot with Tony Curtis in drag, the state went into overdrive.
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
While E.T. was everyone’s favorite cute little terrestrial, kids in Norway, Finland, and Sweden were bummed when an age restriction was placed on viewers under 12 years old from seeing the film. Apparently censors were worried it would start a battle between children and basically any authoritative figure. Unfortunately for them it had an adverse affect, as a bunch kids starting protesting outside of cinemas with signs stating “We want E.T.”
Back to the Future (1985)
China really does have a thing for banning movies. In 2011, the country ruled that all films featuring time travel should be cut, meaning (you guessed it) Back to the Future was on the list. It wasn’t just the Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump) classic that was cut – everything from A Christmas Carol to Austin Powers was banned. Apparently the government thought it “encouraged filmmakers to treat history in a frivolous way.” Yeah baby, yeah.
Shrek 2 (2004)
So the banning of Shrek 2 in Israel was not actually started by the government – it was in fact down to one man. In the hebrew version of the movie, a character threatens to emasculate another by stating “let’s do a David D’Or on him”. D’Or refers to a Eurovision singer who took such offence to the joke, he filed a lawsuit against the producers and actually won. The film was cut from Israeli cinemas until the joke was removed! That’s one serious grudge.
Roland Emmerich’s sci-fi flick depicted humanity at the brink of extinction. However, its name did not go down well with North Korea due to the fact that at the time, the country’s leader – Kim Il-Sung – believed 2012 would be “his” year. As such, the country banned the movie out of fear it would jinx North Korea’s supposed lucky year. We all know how that turned out.
Titanic – 3D release (2012)
Kate Winslet’s naked bod in 3D proved too much when the movie hit cinemas in China and the actor was covered up to the neck due to fear audiences might get confused. One official even said, “Considering the vivid 3D effects, we fear that viewers may reach out their hands for a touch and thus interrupt other people’s viewing.” Which begs the question: how dumb do they think audiences are?
Red Dawn (2012)
The remake of the 1984 classic proved to be a bit of a tricky one when it came to post-production. Its premiere was delayed because producers felt it would do better in China if the villains were North Korean as opposed to Chinese. It turned out to be a pretty lengthy and expensive switch around, with MGM pouring an additional $1 million to change the Chinese flags to North Korean ones and rework the opening scene. Despite the effort, Red Dawn made its debut in 2012 to a disappointing box office reception. Ouch!
While this classic Bond film wasn’t fully censored in China, some of the audio was adapted to “suit” audiences. Namely the part where the spy (Daniel Craig) questions a woman (Bérénice Marlohe) about her tattoo, which indicates she had been forced into prostitution as a child. Instead of leaving this plot point in, the government decided it was too much and enforced the subtitles be changed to read she was extorted by a mob.
Back in China again, this time with the 2016 Ghostbusters reboot, which was shunned by the country’s censorship board for the rather unavoidable reason that it featured ghosts. According to Chinese policy, movies that promote cult or superstition face getting cut. Even the film’s retitling to Super Power Dare Die Team wasn’t enough to stop the censorship board from taking offence to the content, and the movie was banned from the country. You win some, you lose some.
Beauty and the Beast (2017)
Malaysian censors got all pissy over Beauty and the Beast’s “gay moment” in which LeFou (Josh Gad) is smitten with Gaston (Luke Evans). Sex between men is illegal in the country, and while gay characters are allowed to be depicted, it’s only if they’re in a negative light.
Censorship board chairman Abdul Halim told the New Sunday Times, “Malaysia does not recognize the LGBT ideology. So we have to be extra cautious in our work. We have our responsibilities to the country, the people and our constitution. If we let these scenes pass, people will wonder if Malaysia recognizes LGBT.”