Judd Apatow Calls Out Hollywood Censorship in China: ‘They’ve Bought Our Silence with Money’

By prioritizing financial gains in markets like China and Saudi Arabia, Hollywood is not likely to embrace "critical content."
Judd Apatow attends the 72nd Annual Directors Guild of America Awards at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)
Judd Apatow
Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP

Judd Apatow is refusing to let Hollywood off the hook for allowing itself to be censored in international markets such as China in order to reap financial rewards. During a conversation with MSNBC’s Ari Melber on “Mavericks with Ari Melber,” Apatow criticized Hollywood for staying away from and/or cutting out content that is critical of certain countries in order to make money.

“A lot of these giant corporate entities have business with countries around the world, Saudi Arabia or China, and they’re just not going to criticize them,” Apatow said, “and they’re not going to let their shows criticize them or they’re not going to air documentaries that go deep into truthful areas because they make so much money.”

Apatow added, “So while we’re going, ‘Can we say this joke, can we not say that joke,’ on a much bigger level, they have just completely shut down critical content about human rights abuses in China, and I think that’s much scarier.”

As an example, the “Knocked Up” and “King of Staten Island” director said studios would shoot him down if he ever pitched a movie about a man who escapes Chinese concentration camps, referring to the imprisonment of Muslim Uighurs in China’s Xinjiang province. Disney has recently come under fire for filming part of its live-action “Mulan” film in Xinjiang and using the film’s end credits to thank “the publicity department of CPC Xinjiang Uighur Autonomy Region Committee.” Over one million Uighur Muslims have reportedly been detained in the region.

“Instead of us doing business with China and China becoming more free, what has happened is a place like China has bought our silence with their money,” Apatow said. “We do need a movie that says, ‘Hey people are being mistreated in North Korea,’ and so the aftermath of that might be, if you wanted to pitch that today, no one would ever consider that. But as a result of that, we never wake up our country or the world through art or satire that people are being mistreated in our country or other countries. So that’s very dangerous.”

In addition to censoring content, Hollywood studios have also included China-friendly content in certain films in order to guarantee a theatrical release in the country. Rian Johnson’s “Looper,” for instance, was famously rewritten to include China in its storyline so that the movie could bypass China’s strict foreign-film quota. When filmmakers take a stand against China (see Quentin Tarantino refusing to edit out the Bruce Lee scene in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”), their films are blocked from the country and risk losing a significant percentage of their box office. China is the second biggest box office market in the world after the U.S.

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