Disney exec #1: This Taika Waititi thing, Jojo Rabbit, could be problematic for our brand
Disney exect #2: At least Mulan is tracking well
You may have noticed that #BoycottMulan has been trending this past weekend and several things might have run through your mind. “Is it because they aren’t including Mushu?” “Is it the exclusion of Li Shang?” “Is it because it won’t be a musical?” “TELL ME!”
If you voted “none of the above,” you’d be absolutely right. It seems that before this picture is even screen before general audiences, it’s going to have to grapple with at least one more controversy.
If you haven’t been watching the news of late, it’s worth noting that Hong Kong and China are a bit at odds at the moment. “But, Jonesy, how is that different than any other row they’ve had over the last few years?!”
Well, Sir or Madam or non-binary, earlier this summer, Beijing and Hong Kong were in the early stages of putting in place a law that would allow for extradition requests from Macau, Taiwan and Mainland China to Hong Kong for individuals suspected of criminal wrongdoing. Proponents of the law contend that it will prevent Hong Kong from becoming a haven for criminals, a wretched hive of scum and villainy.
Counterpoint to this stance are the citizens of Hong Kong and human rights activists who believe the justice system in Mainland China is deeply flawed. Examples would be prominent Chinese actress, Fan Bingbing, who vanished for 4 months as Chinese authorities audited her estate and bookseller Lam Wing Kee, who was abducted in 2015 from Hong Kong and detained in China for selling books that were critical of Chinese leaders.
Since June, millions of protesters have been flooding the streets, condemning the law that would make such extradition legal (although, it’s problematic that it’s happening anyway, regardless of the laws that are currently in place).
The police have been allowed to use more aggressive tactics and as a result, demonstrators are being maimed by rubber bullets and being choked with tear gas. The protests have garnered international attention to the point where the Chinese Ambassador to the United Kingdom admonished the British government, telling them to keep their “hands off Hong Kong.”
The entertainment nexus is with Disney’s upcoming live-action adaptation of Mulan where lead actress, Liu Yifei, publicly supported the police on the Chinese social media site, Weibo, in a post that included a story from the government-run Beijing outlet, People’s Daily. (in Chinese), Liu stated: “I also support Hong Kong police. You can beat me up now.” She added in English: “What a shame for Hong Kong.”
The protests in Hong Kong began as a way to voice outrage at the extradition law, but even after the proposed law was shelved, the protests evolved into demonstrations against police and their brutality. This is where Liu’s support of the police became particularly problematic and sparked widespread calls for a boycott of the Disney film on twitter.
A Communist Mulan?
Why would any young girl want her as a role model?
Freedom loving people, from across the world should give this movie a miss. Stay home and watch Lea Salonga in the old Movie.#boycottMulan pic.twitter.com/rjUTr2Ivsq
— Scarlet (@scarlet529) August 17, 2019
#boycottMulan Liu Yifei (While living in the United States, she gained her United States citizenship.) supports police brutality in HK. She does not deserve to portray a character fighting for freedom when she personally supports oppression and tyranny (Communist Party of China). pic.twitter.com/A0tYABFv7e
— BW (@SETUSFREE2047) August 17, 2019
#BoycottMulan she supports HK Police, and this is what the HK Police did to a First-Aider (her right eye is permanently blind). Nice job casting her. She doesn't deserve to be Mulan. pic.twitter.com/ZyyRlWrqCq
— Vel (@Mysticloudy) August 16, 2019
Thus far, Disney’s live action offerings have been doing well on the whole. Films like Dumbo and Alice Through the Looking Glass were still profitable at the box office, pulling in big numbers overseas and the largest territory financially was China. Similarly, the more commercially successful winners like Lion King and Aladdin also did big numbers in China.
It’s apparent that Hong Kong is at an inflection point. Since becoming independent from British rule in 1997, Hong Kong has existed as a special administrative region, but that time is coming to an end. In 2047, the Chinese government is scheduled to end the “one country, two systems,” agreement that will have been in place for 50 years, post British occupancy.
At this point, the real question for Disney is whether or not this call for a boycott will endure until the film is released and what impact, if any, will there be on ticket sales. More and more, the foreign box office is impacting films. Avengers: Endgame earned a staggering 69% of its box office haul outside the United States and a large portion of that was from China. Disney execs might be looking at this political row as something that could threaten their box office success. Only time will tell.
For her part, since the backlash started, Liu seems unbothered, posting a follow-up to on Weibo:
“If we’re not on the same terms, let’s part ways then. (smiley face)” Disney has yet to comment.
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