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Photo Courtesy of Columbia Pictures / IMDb

Once Upon a Time in China

Renowned American filmmaker Quentin Tarantino recently made headlines when he refused to edit his latest movie, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood so that it could play in China. China had coerced Tarantino into editing his movies in the past, including Django Unchained. Now, in a rather remarkable move, he decided against it. Rumors surrounding the situation suggest that the movie’s comically arrogant depiction of Bruce Lee is what lead China to halt screenings, however, this remains unconfirmed. Other theories point to the over-saturation of gore and violence shown in the movie, which is characteristic of Tarantino films.

 Regardless of the proposed censors, Tarantino remains firm against re-editing the movie, leaving little hope of it appearing on Chinese silver screens. While this may disappoint some Chinese viewers, many here in the states are cheering on the move. Media, politicians, and other individuals praised Tarantino for championing freedom of expression and not bowing to the censorship of a foreign country. It seems that in the eyes of the American public, Tarantino’s refusal to edit is justified. 

Ask the NBA and Lebron James, on the other hand, and they will surely scold the filmmaker for being “misinformed” and “not educated,” as they did with Daryl Morey. Tarantino’s defiance comes after a turbulent situation with China and American businesses such as the NBA. China has presented these corporations with a predicament, what is more important: freedom of speech and expression, or monetary gain? The NBA chose monetary gains. Tarantino chose his inalienable rights. 

The argument can be made that the NBA needed to settle down with China or risk losing a majority of their profits. Yet, the better move would have been not to obliterate Daryl Morey for what he said but instead distance their corporation from his individual beliefs. If the NBA had to abandon their dignity and accept Chinese regulations, then they could have at least done so without curb-stomping the freedom of speech that their members have. Their decision also comes as a shock for fans. The NBA, a corporation normally at the forefront of social issues, decided to abandon their mission and take the paycheck. 

Tarantino’s refusal to re-edit his movie may seem somewhat small compared to the situation with the NBA, but it definitely should not be. By refusing to give up his individual freedoms, Tarantino blazed a new trail. He has opened the door for others to do the same. Corporations, public figures, and celebrities who feel similar pressures now have an example to follow. If everyone was to act as the NBA did, then what stops China from controlling U.S. media like their own? With his decision, Tarantino allowed for a new wave of anti-censorship to flow. Now the question is: will others follow?