The Chinese state propaganda newspaper world times continued its furious campaign against Disney’s live-action remake of The little Mermaid Friday, defending Chinese moviegoers against accusations of racism for their disinterest in the film, featuring black actress Halle Bailey.
The Disney film debuted in China and the United States on Friday. From Thursday evening, the world times reported, ticket pre-sales in China amounted to 600,000 yuan ($85,000), a low at best, showing that the state publication insisted that it indicated no racism on the part of the audience.
THE world times condemned Bailey’s casting in 2019, saying allowing the titular mermaid to appear black in the film was an “unnecessary disruption to the character who originally appeared as a red-haired white princess in the Disney cartoon “. Following reports this week of shockingly low ticket presales for the film in China – and reports that Disney altered movie posters in China to make Bailey appear blue rather than black – the newspaper of State has repeatedly condemned both the decision to cast Bailey and concerns that the Chinese government, or Chinese viewers, were biased against the film because of its black star. Thursday, the Time condemned Bailey’s appearance in the film as a “lazy and irresponsible” way to include non-white faces in American entertainment.
“If the company is serious about representing marginalized groups, why not create original stories that reflect their experiences instead of turning classic tales into ‘sacrificial lambs’ for political correctness?” requested state publication.
Friday, the world times stepped up its rhetoric, describing The little Mermaid as a weapon in the hands of “white leftist” militants intended to wrongfully attack the Chinese and impose “cultural hegemony”.
“Western ‘white left’ netizens are using (de) their political correctness to kidnap the Chinese public, this is naked cultural hegemony,” said the world times proclaimed. “Some people just don’t know how to reflect on themselves, but only stand on so-called high morale to criticize others. Colonizing a group of people on Earth and then yelling at another group for not sharing your own guilty conscience – how convenient to always be the good one!”
The state-run newspaper took particular issue with Western audiences noticing that Disney altered its poster for the film for Chinese audiences, giving Bailey blue skin underwater rather than her natural brown color:
China’s The Little Mermaid Poster Leaves People Wondering Why They Made It Blue pic.twitter.com/kz6oV6GRE0
— Geeks + Gamers (@GeeksGamersCom) May 22, 2023
“By criticizing Disney’s choice of photos for promotional posters in different countries, these critics are implying that Chinese audiences are ‘racist,'” said the world times asserted, denying that the Chinese public is racist and using Beijing’s disastrous Belt and Road (BRI) interventions in Africa as evidence.
“Unlike Western countries’ invasion of Africa, China’s efforts on the continent have been peaceful, helping African countries resist imperialism and strive for national independence and liberation,” claimed the state newspaper. “During the COVID-19 (Wuhan coronavirus) pandemic, Western countries only focused on themselves, but China started providing vaccines to Africa even when domestic supplies were limited.”
In fact, Chinese projects in Africa have brought with them a wave of anti-African racism in participating countries. In Kenya, Chinese leaders of BRI projects imposed “apartheid” systems that prohibited local workers from interacting with imported Chinese labor, going so far as to prohibit Africans from using the same buses and cafeterias than the Chinese. Similarly, Zimbabwe has documented widespread accusations of physical abuse and racism by Chinese mining officials, which the socialist regime has largely ignored.
Regarding China’s coronavirus vaccines, Gao Fu, then head of the Chinese Center for Disease Control (CDC), admitted in 2021 that the doses “do not have very high protection rates” against the virus. Several African countries, including Chinese allies, have rejected shipments of coronavirus vaccine products due to a lack of storage facilities and, in some cases, a lack of public demand.
THE world times dismissed criticism of Disney for editing the post and the Chinese audience as an attempt to “sow discord between China and African groups”.
The Chinese Communist Party has a long track record of anti-black racism, both in the entertainment it produces — the state’s Lunar New Year variety show has featured blackface twice in the last decade – and in its public policies. The country’s profile in Africa is still reeling from the imposition of racist segregation policies at the height of the coronavirus pandemic from Wuhan to Guangzhou, a southern city home to a large African diaspora population, barring black people from accessing hotels and restaurants under the false pretense that they were more likely to spread the virus.
In entertainment, Western companies, including Disney, have been caught altering promotional material for films to downplay black actors. In 2015, for example, the Chinese version of the poster for star wars: the force awakens showed star John Boyega, of Nigerian ancestry, much shorter than in the Western release, although Boyega plays one of the film’s main characters. Most recently, the Chinese version of the 2021 movie poster Dunes removed a black actress who featured prominently on the West poster.
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