Hollywood power brokers threatened to boycott Georgia over pro-life legislation. No similar campaign has materialized after a revolting Associated Press report that found China “regularly subjects minority women to pregnancy checks, and forces intrauterine devices, sterilization and even abortion on hundreds of thousands.” Hollywood, of course, has a lucrative financial relationship with China, which is highly sensitive to criticism.
On Monday, a senior administration official confirmed to The Federalist the AP’s report on the oppression of ethnic minorities was consistent with government assessments of the situation. So where is Hollywood?
At least one celebrity is on top of it, although he doesn’t have much company. Back in January, Judd Apatow was quoted in a long New Yorker story on Hollywood’s relationship with China. “You would not see a major film company or studio make a movie that has story lines which are critical of countries with major markets or investors. The question becomes: what’s the result of all of this?” he said. “The result is, there are a million or more Muslims in reeducation camps in China, and you don’t really hear much about it.”
That kind of call-out is rare for Hollywood, which industry executive Chris Fenton told me last year “would like to keep” the conversation about China “behind closed doors.” In response to this week’s AP story, Apatow called out corporate powers like Apple and the NBA, both of which have taken steps to support the Black Lives Matter movement. Many of his peers— think the usual suspects like Alyssa Milano—curiously did not feel compelled to share their reactions
I am sure Trump is fine with this as well as all American corporations and sports leagues. As long as the money flows it doesn’t matter if they have concentration camps and forced sterilizations, right @apple, @nba ? This is how the holocaust happened. Nobody spoke up. https://t.co/demiglsPez
— Judd Apatow (@JuddApatow) June 29, 2020
Even if you’re pro-choice, the Chinese government’s “slow, painful, creeping genocide” of the Uighurs is obviously on a different scale than legislation that bans abortion after six weeks. One government is forcing Muslim women to have abortions, in addition to sterilizing them and keeping them in detention camps. That government, as it happens, is the one Hollywood isn’t threatening to cut off, despite having plenty of leverage.
There was no influx of breathless celebrity tweets condemning China on Monday. The brave culture warriors who eagerly posture against the evils of American conservatism and puff their chests over pro-life legislation are largely quiet when a country with more financial power over them than Georgia transgresses on a scale beyond any comparison.
The logic behind the Georgia boycotts was that threatening to withhold lucrative business deals would pressure the state out of enacting legislation. “There is no way we would ever bring our money to that state by shooting there,” director Reed Morano said at the time. (He was working on a project for Amazon, by the way.)
Chinese movie theaters and investors make good money off American films, which, it should also be noted, are subject to Chinese government censorship—even when U.S. military resources are involved in production. How about applying a little pressure on China to stop detaining, sterilizing, and aborting minority Muslims?
China is notoriously punitive to celebrities who question it, meaning stars who spoke out would jeopardize their value in Hollywood, potentially losing parts in movies that studios plan to market in the Middle Kingdom. You can argue maintaining a good relationship with China is key to exporting soft power through the influence of American films. I disagree, but that would at least be honest.
Hollywood’s silence on China’s human rights abuses is a sad reminder that none of their political bravado is brave at all. Indeed, it’s often ignorant, self-serving, and insincere. The consequence of threatening Georgia is glowing headlines from the corporate media and potentially higher production costs. The consequence of threatening China is career-threatening retaliation.
Georgia’s tax incentives for film production have enabled Hollywood players to boss the state around ideologically over partisan squabbles. They are the cultural consequence of cronyism. If Hollywood is so eager to throw around its weight to exact political influence, the government that’s detaining and sterilizing and aborting minority Muslims would be a great place to start, even and especially if it oversees a key market.
While Hollywood hypocrisy inflames cultural tensions and mangles our priorities, this is about something much bigger. This is about American corporations and their consumers disentangling their business from a government guilty of unspeakable evil. We are at the point of complicity. It is time to responsibly step back.
This isn’t to say it will be easy, but it is necessary, and at some point, it will require our celebrity class to put their money where their mouths are on human rights.