Some in Hollywood are quickly developing a relationship with the authoritarian Chinese government by censoring content created in the United States so that it will pass the communist censors overseas. The latest film to fall victim to this despicable trend appears to be "Top Gun: Maverick" — the sequel to the 1986 blockbuster that first made Tom Cruise a movie star.
After the trailer launched last week, people took notice of the fact that the character's iconic patch-laden flight jacket had a slight alteration to the original: The Japanese and Taiwanese flags were missing.
"There's a new 'Top Gun' movie coming out. And [Cruise's character] Maverick is wearing the same leather jacket — only this time it's Communist Party of China-approved, so the Japanese and Taiwanese flag patches are gone," reporter Mark MacKinnon wrote on Twitter last week, sparking an online debate.
Further adding to the suspicions about "Top Gun: Maverick" is the fact that Tencent Pictures, owned by the Chinese company Tencent, is "a co-financier of the new Top Gun movie," according to The Hollywood Reporter. Skydance, which is co-producing the film with Paramount, is also partially owned by Tencent.
In response to this seemingly blatant attempt to make a few bucks by appeasing a totalitarian government, some GOP lawmakers are speaking out in protest.
"Hollywood is afraid to stand up for free speech," Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) told The Washington Free Beacon. "'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."
A senior GOP congressional official told the Free Beacon that several lawmakers have begun to take notice of Hollywood's relationship with China.
"Concern about China has been heating up, but so far it's been a slow burn," the official told the outlet. "It's going to take something people can understand to shake lawmakers awake. This 'Top Gun' controversy isn't a military attack or anything like that, but it's so brazen and outrageous that maybe a few more people will pay attention. The current situation, where China slowly gets Americans to self-censor, just isn't sustainable."
Earlier this week, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said the censorship of "Top Gun: Maverick" just downright "sucks."
"That’s the power of Chinese money in the modern world that kind of sucks," Graham said in an interview with TMZ. "I hate to see the flag removed because of Chinese financing. It’s nothing the government can do, but I think it sucks."
Movie studios have gone to great lengths to appeal to Chinese audiences by presenting the country as a technologically advanced superpower, as in the cases of "The Martian," "2012," "Gravity," and "Looper." Beyond that, some movies have been subjected to self-censorship, sometimes changing whole plotlines in order to break into the Chinese market.
"When the creators of 'Pixels' wanted to show aliens blasting a hole in the Great Wall of China, Sony executives worried that the scene might prevent the 2015 movie’s release in China, leaked studio emails show. They blew up the Taj Mahal instead," reported The New York Times. "In the 2016 movie 'Doctor Strange,' the Ancient One is Celtic, played by the white actress Tilda Swinton. Moviemakers decided to change the character’s ethnicity early in the process, reportedly to avoid offending the Chinese government."