Disney Yanks China-Mocking Simpsons Episode From Its Hong Kong Streaming Service

from the for reasons only understandable to multi national conglomerates dept

American companies still give China what it wants. Y THO?

The only thing that can be gained from maintaining whatever the fuck a “good relationship” with the world’s most powerful autocracy is… more subjugation! Who would want that?

I wish this was rhetorical but it seems plenty of entities want to be bossed around by the Big Red Bully, ranging from the NBA to a variety of tech companies which consider a potential market of billions more valuable than their credibility.

So, who’s caving to the always unreasonable demands of China and its head of state, Winnie the Pooh? Why, it’s none other than Disney, the current host for every Simpsons episode ever. And what’s getting pulled? It’s a Simpsons episode that chose to portray China the way China would not choose to portray China, according to this report from Narayan Liu for CBR.com.

Disney+ recently launched in the Hong Kong, a special administrative region that, until recently, officially functioned separately from China. Not everything will be available to Hong Kong viewers, however, as subscribers have found at least one episode of The Simpsons has been removed due to a reference to the Tiananmen Square Massacre.

Numerous subscribers and reports have surfaced, showing that the Season 16 episode “Goo Goo Gai Pan” has been removed in Hong Kong.

What’s wrong with this episode? Tough to say since it simply repeats (mocks) the official party line. Here’s a screenshot of the “offending” language China feels is too subversive to allow Hong Kong viewers to enjoy for what must be at least the umpteenth time.

It’s a shot of the place where things happened in 1989, most notably a Chinese citizen staring down a line of tanks. But the Chinese government continues to insist this is a collective delusion and has worked as tirelessly as a country of kowtowed billions can to erase history. In this Simpsons episode, the illusion is complete. If you can’t read/see the screenshot, it shows a monument apparently erected in Tiananmen Square that reads:

TIAN AN MEN SQUARE
ON THIS SITE, IN 1989,
NOTHING HAPPENED

That’s what the Chinese government wants everyone to pretend to believe. So, what’s the problem? Well, I guess Chinese censors are at least able to discern context when they want to. And since this isn’t officially issued propaganda, it has to go.

But it doesn’t. Disney could have ignored demands to remove the episode, if there actually were any demands. It could be a proactive move by Disney which makes it even worse. A country known for its casual disrespect for American copyrights and trademarks should be way up on Disney’s shitlist, considering its efforts to extend all things IP to forever and a day.

Disney should be willing to flip the bird to a nation full of casual IP violators. Somehow, it’s apparently not up to the task. Instead, it has (preemptively or otherwise) caved to the overseer of millions of infringers in the apparent hopes of retaining some relationship to millions of Hong Kong streamers, as well as the billions just over the imaginary property line that separates the region the Chinese government was supposed to leave unmolested for the next couple of decades.

Once again, we must ask: what is the fucking endgame? Do American companies actually believe that adhering their tongues to the underside of the Chinese government’s boot will somehow exclude them from future censorship demands? All signs point to No.

So… is it easier than showing spine? It must be because we’ve seen similar acts far too often. China may have a supply chain stranglehold, but it relies on a steady supply of customers in other nations. With a little collective effort, this imbalance of power can be leveraged to make China more amenable to the freedoms enjoyed by customers around the world who purchase its products.

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Comments on “Disney Yanks China-Mocking Simpsons Episode From Its Hong Kong Streaming Service”

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29 Comments
PaulTsays:

"Disney could have ignored demands to remove the episode"

They could have, but they’re made a lot of money from showing films in China in recent years and they’ve likely lost a lot of projected revenue after a few recent high profile releases have been refused screenings. Welcome to capitalism.

"Once again, we must ask: what is the fucking endgame?"

Profit and benefits for shareholders. If things ever go the other way and Disney are either issued a blanket ban or they can be shown that they make more money by opposing China than they do by appeasing them, they’ll switch to where the profits are. For now, obeying China’s wishes makes them money and doesn’t lead to any appreciable losses elsewhere, so this is what they’ll do. The Chinese backlash against releasing the likes of Shang Chi and Eternals might make the waver, but while there’s such big numbers available to them if they do appease the regime for now, they’re keep doing so until their bottom line is proven to be tied to opposing them.

Anonymoussays:

Re:

And if US-style capitalist corporations could see past the tip of their next quarter, they’d realize that they have a shot at an even bigger market should they wholesale pull out of China. The Chinese population likes a lot of non-Chinese products, services, and entertainment (no accounting for taste), and might just bother to push back on a gov that caused all their favorite flavors to disappear. It would probably even affect some portion of the true-believer pro-gov citizenry.

Scary Devil Monasterysays:

Re: Re:

"The Chinese population likes a lot of non-Chinese products, services, and entertainment (no accounting for taste), and might just bother to push back on a gov that caused all their favorite flavors to disappear."

Not really true. Take a look at China’s online media market – as soon as Baidu had functionality akin to Google, Google was suddenly saddled with ever increasing burdens of accountability visavi the government – and finally caved, leaving China with their own search engine. Weibo instead of Twitter, Meimei instead of LinkedIn, WeChat instead of Facebook.

Hollywood now imports chinese movies and the middle kingdom is churning out blockbusters with any flavor imaginable – as long as that flavor can’t be construed as criticizing the government or government policy.

The 90% of the citizenry the chinese government cares for will not even notice western offers vanishing from the marketplace and the 10% who do are free to leave or to accept being a silent minority.

The truth is that the west has only one lever against China. We foolishly placed all our manufacturing industry there and by this time retrieving it means tanking our own economies for about thirty years or more. But if we did accept throwing our economy on the table and giving it the chop…China would hurt as well.

And this is exactly what china has spent the last fifty years trying to accomplish. Full self-sufficiency while keeping the western savages in a state of perpetual dependency.

And in this they’ve succeeded. Western governments can not plan beyond the next election cycle and are unable to propose policy which would, in the short term, hurt the interests of their economies. Because the government which does that won’t win the next election. Western corporations meanwhile, are all unable to plan beyond next quarter – because the CEO who takes too long to deliver a profit is replaced.

China, on the other hand, set itself up for losing a long string of battles – for decades – while putting themselves in the position where they would win the war. And they have.

"…they have a shot at an even bigger market should they wholesale pull out of China."

Not really, no. Look at the numbers. 1 in 6 people on the globe are chinese. Add all of europe and all of the US together and what you get is half the population of China.
Any call to make a western company leave China voluntarily is the equivalent of expecting US gun manufacturers to take the stance that from now on they won’t sell any firearms to the NRA.

There’s a lot of wishful thinking around China which still stems from it’s decaying state in the 18th century or in the early years after Mao. The reality of it is that today China is such a massive market that for any global corporation to be denied entry to China while their competitor has access means the corporation denied access is no longer competitive, effective immediately.

And THAT is why Disney, Blizzard, Google, and every other western company to gain access to China at some point will go to any length to prolong the privilege of their stay there.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Re:

On the other hand, the market is hostile towards anyone that isn’t state-approved, and the consumers have to be forced to use the state-approved alternatives. (a much easier task in China, sadly…)

And since even Google had a product all ready to roll out before they were stopped, it’s not a very good sign.

Though if you ask me, they prefer the foreign offerings than the local alternativea unless they were forced to.

Scary Devil Monasterysays:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

"Though if you ask me, they prefer the foreign offerings than the local alternative unless they were forced to."

You’d be wrong, alas. China does apply market rules, meaning their versions of anything in their markets come from a plentitude of choices.

People keep getting this wrong – China likes to call itself "communist" when the reality is their markets are as capitalist as the US. More so I’d say, given the way US markets have become pseudo-monopolies these last few decades.

It’s just that the chinese government tends to heavily discourage foreign corporations from their markets.

Do the numbers – you think a market economy nation with 1,4 billion is more or less likely to produce good offers than a market of 350 million where the room at the top is already taken? And of course that’s heavily incentivized by a system of government which takes as core principle that making sure some 90% of the citizenry is happy, well fed, well educated and prosperous is the highest priority to achieve stability. While using the last 10% as dissident bogeymen, deviants and terrorists to frighten the majority with.

China keep wanting to uphold themselves as that special snowflake nation which succeeded in being communist where everyone else failed but the truth is that they did so by being extremely capitalistic. It’s all window dressing covering for the fact that they never moved beyond an ultra-autocratic imperial hegemony governed by a sprawling bureaucracy whose members not rarely tend to be the primary owners of any successful corporation. And vice versa if a chinese businessman is successful they’ll find themselves holding a political responsibility as well.

generateusernamesays:

Self-censorship

Disney could have ignored demands to remove the episode, if there actually were any demands. It could be a proactive move by Disney which makes it even worse.

It was most likely a proactive move, which also gives government officials an easy out when confronted on this ("It wasn’t our call. Go talk to them"). And this is why I disagree vehemently (but respectfully) when some users here say self-censorship isn’t a thing. Yes, you could say that Disney exercised "discretion" to decide "We won’t show this here" instead of the Chinese government saying "You can’t show this here" but as you can see, there is little practical difference.

This is a perfect example of self-censorship.

Samuel Abramsays:

Re: Self-censorship

There is a huge, huge difference between what Disney is doing, and, say, me refusing to call a gay man or a trans woman a "faggot" or another slur, for instance: Disney is silencing themselves for fears of governmental punishment, whereas I would not be punished by the US government if I chose not to use slurs, but I would reveal myself to be an anti-queer bigot and people would treat me as such. In other words, one is the government saying "you can’t do that anywhere within our jurisdiction" and the other is basically people saying "we reject you because we don’t like what you say".

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Self-censorship

There is a huge, huge difference between what Disney is doing, and, say, me refusing to call a gay man or a trans woman a "faggot" or another slur, for instance … but I would reveal myself to be an anti-queer bigot and people would treat me as such.

Do you actually want to call people those names? If not, it’s not self-censorship.

Kobysays:

It's Always The Money

Once again, we must ask: what is the fucking endgame? Do American companies actually believe that adhering their tongues to the underside of the Chinese government’s boot will somehow exclude them from future censorship demands?

American media companies have failed to grow the domestic market in recent years. And without that growth, the industry becomes a mature segment whereby high salaries for upper management is unjustified for a business that is expected to merely maintain its income streams. By attempting to expand overseas into China, media companies hope to reignite that growth. They are basing their financial assumptions and spending decisions on that hope of growth. The corporate bigwigs are willing to sacrifice at the Chinese censorship altar for the sake of their own paychecks.

Samuel Abramsays:

Re: Is There Such a Thing?

I would posit China’s Tiananmen Square incident as an authoritarian way to squash the Streisand Effect, meaning Barbara Streisand could only make sure nobody knew of her house in Malibu in a place like China considering how successful China’s campaign to memory-hole what happened in Tiananmen Square is to their own subjects.

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