If you’ve been following English-language news surrounding China (or, chinaSMACK), you’ve likely already heard of Red Dawn and it’s upcoming remake. The original 1984 American movie featured the evil Soviets suddenly parachuting into the continental United States. Given that the Soviet Union has since collapsed, the 2010 remake is updated to align with the times. That means, this time, its the Chinese who are invading1.
Ironically, the Chinese were on America’s side in the original2.
As you can imagine, there are many people (myself included) who are a bit concerned about how this movie squarely frames the Chinese as a threat, an enemy, and possibly an invader of the United States. We may know this is an extremely unlikely scenario, but try telling that to a not-unsubstantial amount of Americans who swear the Chinese are already waging covert biological warfare against them through poisonous pet food, toys with lead paint, and stinky sulfuric drywall…or think China is at least seriously pursuing “empire”3.
With so many Americans already holding plenty of misconceptions and misgivings toward the Chinese, the new Red Dawn will inevitably ratchet up these negative sentiments amongst the ignorant and impressionable. We know this is going to happen. We just don’t know how concerned or annoyed we really should be.
Research analyst Aimee Barnes posted on her personal blog a good overview of what’s objectionable and worrisome about the new Red Dawn movie, titled: “Heroes, Commies and the American Face“. Seeing that it went up two days ago, but upset that it has gotten zero comments thus far, I’m linking to it again hoping to spur some conversation. An excerpt:
As you might imagine, I was a bit upset after learning about China’s leading role in “Red Dawn 2010.” But it’s just a movie, right? Not really. With our economy in the tank, our jobs being shipped overseas, and a barrage of news reports on Chinese tainted drywall, starving tigers and cyber-spies, you can bet that a significant number of Americans are not keen on China these days. However, America’s ties to China bear no resemblance to the Russian-US relationship during the Cold War era. China is creditor to American debt and Walmart’s biggest trading partner. China holds both US treasury securities and American dreams (because if you can’t get a job in America, why not try China?) And, in an age of globalization and unparalleled interdependency, can we even afford to use the word “enemy” when referring to nations? According to the writers and producers of “Red Dawn 2010,” we can.
In my opinion, “Red Dawn 2010” is not just a movie. It is reckless propaganda, outdated and uninformed, which serves to undermine the already fragile US-China relationship and positive diplomatic efforts made over the past few years. It shouts, “to heck with moving forward. Screw the future. Let’s resurrect the past instead.” It’s not art, it’s xenophobia. Most of all, it is one more piece in an assemblage of the modern American “face,”- the face we show to the rest of the world. It’s shameful.
Oof, strong words.
To be honest, I’m torn.
On one hand, I agree with what Aimee says about what the movie can represent.
On the other, I also think “it is just a movie.”
Let’s be honest, seriously dumb entertainment that play off people’s dumb knee-jerk xenophobia get made in a lot of countries, not least of all China. The only problem may be that, in America, some really dumb entertainment come out of really big productions that have really big marketing budgets. It is that Hollywood apparatus that magnifies the impact and consequences of dumb ideas. Fair or not, America’s pop culture does influence much of the world. It’s one of the benefits, by-products, and burdens of being top of the heap. People will interpret everything that comes out of your ass and interpret you with it.
But no, I don’t think the movie will bring America to the brink of war with China. Not even remotely close. There are, believe it or not, thankfully enough reasonable people in key positions in America. There are enough people who can separate fantasy from reality.
But maybe that’s where the social criticism and discussion begins. This movie’s narrative is at least someone’s fantasy and for the roughly two hours audiences are watching it with any suspension of disbelief, it’s their’s too. Does this, one person compelling others to think something, alone warrant any head-shaking if the head-shaker disagrees with the ideas being planted, even in the name of “entertainment”?
If the Chinese made a similar movie, but with the roles reversed, would those who say Red Dawn “is just a movie” offer the same reaction, as gracious to others as they are to themselves? Or would it be “yet more Chinese propaganda” that deserves more concern because Chinese audiences are more more gullible and brainwashed, that the Chinese government is escalating nationalism in preparation for a showdown with the United States?
What struck me most was Aimee’s characterization here: “[T]o heck with moving forward. Screw the future. Let’s resurrect the past instead.”
It struck me because I regularly hear and read Americans (amongst others) criticizing the Chinese for incessantly resurrecting their past, clutching to their to historical resentments, against the Japanese, against Western imperialists, whining and whining and whining. “Get over it already”, they’d say.
All true…and yet…
Image credit: “Omega Red Dawn” art by Ryan Rouse.