Talk about cosmic coincidences! Just yesterday, I blogged on a terrific Washington Post piece that detailed how the American movie industry has been including in feature films images and story lines that flatter China in order to persuade Beijing to give their products access to the potentially huge but tightly controlled Chinese market. And last night – quite unintentionally – I wound up seeing one of those very movies – The Martian!
In deference to those intending to see the film, I won’t spill the specifics. Let’s just say that the outcome would have been vastly different had the Chinese space program not decided to volunteer major assistance. Until that plot twist appeared, I was loving the movie. Afterwards, I was feeling so nauseated that I was relieved that I’d foregone popcorn. In fact, had I known about this detail, I would have never seen the film, and rewarded this pandering financially, in the first place.
There is admittedly one complicating wrinkle to this sad tale: The Martian is based on a novel. I haven’t read it, but it’s certainly possible that the favorable treatment of China wasn’t gratuitously injected by Hollywood moguls, but were part of the original story. At the same time, there are any number of great science fiction stories and novels that haven’t made it to the silver screen.
Even choosing this one, therefore, would represent an unmistakably political move, and an especially craven one given China’s recent expansionism in East Asian waters, its engagement in cyber-hacking American businesses, its recent crackdown on legitimate U.S. business activity in China, and its redoubled repression of domestic dissent, among other transgressions. (I have fewer objections to cyber-attacks on U.S. government sites, since however harmful to national security, they do seem to examples of the kinds of espionage every government has engaged in during recorded history.)
And here’s an important historical footnote: Friend Nevin Gussack yesterday called my attention to a recent book that describes a similar Hollywood cave-in to Nazi Germany in the 1930s. Here’s a link to an article summarizing it. The American film industry obviously isn’t the sum total of American culture and society, let alone the U.S. economy. Yet its national and global footprints for the last century have been undeniably massive and influential.
As private companies, American entertainment firms have no legal responsibility to champion national interests, or any other value. By the same token, however, their customers have every right to reject their products if they view them as politically or morally objectionable. So I’d urge every one who’s concerned about the Chinese challenge to America’s security and prosperity, and about how Big Business and its government stooges, to boycott The Martian, and tell Hollywood to stop shilling for a dangerous foreign dictatorship.