Phoney war, real paranoia

Remake of Cold War classic depicts a Chinese invasion of the US

Phoney war, real paranoia

Lucas: chic soldier fights PLA

Back in the eighties, when Russia was part of the Soviet Union, and superpower paranoia prevailed, Hollywood was never short of cold War thrillers. Prominent among them was Red Dawn, an unlikely tale of a group of spunky teenagers led by Patrick Swayze who start an insurgency to fight off a communist invasion of America.

Fast forward to today. The Soviet Union is long gone and most Americans are too young to remember Ronald Reagan’s ‘Evil Empire’ speech. So Hollywood is recasting the role of villain to better reflect the times – the Chinese.

The writer of the Red Dawn remake, Carl Ellsworth, told the Hollywood Reporter: “As Red Dawn scared the heck out of people in 1984, we feel that the world is kind of already filled with a lot of paranoia and unease, so why not scare the hell out of people again?”

And what scares Americans these days more than an economic invasion from the east? So it’s probably a smart move that the new film – Red Dawn (2010) – will be released in November, just in time for America’s mid-term elections. With some senatorial candidates likely to want to ratchet up the anti-Chinese rhetoric, a movie that dramatises a Chinese takeover of the country could fit the mood rather well.

In the new film, which like the original will star a cast of young heart-throbs (in this case, Chris Hemsworth and Isabel Lucas), the band of teenagers take on invading troops from China. Ironically, in the original Red Dawn, the Chinese and the Americans were allied against the Russians, ChinaSmack.com noted.

Pictures of the remake have been leaked onto Chinese websites. One photo of the set shows the “Chinese/American Friendship Centre” with posters of a Chinese worker hammering a dollar sign back into shape under the slogan “Repairing Your Economy.” Other scenes from the set show the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) insignia imposed on the American flag.

Reaction to the latest remake has been predictably heated. Some critics call it outright propaganda, undermining an already fragile Sino-US relationship. Others say that, as ridiculous as the plot might seem, it’s a good indicator of current international attitudes toward China.

Meanwhile, China’s netizens are more split. Some are upset by the negative portrayal of the Chinese in the movie, while others applaud the idea of an invasion, as well as what the film might indicate about China’s growing military and economic prowess.

“This only illustrates that China is more powerful than ever. In the past, the impression of Chinese people in American movies and TV were equivalent to poor people,” wrote one delighted contributor.

But observers have also expressed envy of America’s artistic freedom, pointing out that it would be impossible to get a movie of an American invasion of China past Beijing’s censors.

Nevertheless, most netizens agree that the chances of the new Red Dawn movie showing in China are close to nil.

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