No official reason has been provided. However, according to CBR, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness drew some heavy criticism from pro-Chinese Communist Party (CCP) social media users in China. One of the scenes posted online included brief snapshots of the news box for The Epoch Times, an independent media that publishes uncensored news from China. However, it is unknown if this led to the ban, as the film has yet to be released.
Banned because of a newsrack?
To be more specific, the new trailer of Doctor Strange 2 (Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness) shows when the “ultimate wizard” Benedict Cumberbatch fights a monstrous squid (Gargantos) on the streets of New York. Appearing briefly to the left of the screen is a vending machine inscribed with the Chinese words “Da Ji Yuan” on a street corner.
Da Ji Yuan or The Epoch Times is a New York-based, multilingual media company with 13 newsrooms across the United States. The iconic yellow newsracks of Epoch Times can be easily seen in major cities but are particularly common in Chinese communities.
The CCP authorities seem very sensitive to the Epoch Times newsracks. “Deadline” reported on May 2 that those in the industry focus mainly on the action and the story, “but, that’s evidently not so for some who are digging into every detail”
The Epoch Times is an uncensored media that has published many articles exposing the CCP crimes, such as:
+ No One’s Watching the Beijing Winter Games Because It’s a Celebration of the CCP’s Cruelty and Brutality
+ A State Department Report on Organ Harvesting the CCP Could Love
+ US Universities Urged to Divest From China Over Human Rights Abuses
In fact, the CCP has tried to disrupt this news media when possible. In the early morning of April 12, 2021, the New Century printing factory of Epoch Times Hong Kong was broken into and destroyed by four thugs. Spokesperson of The Epoch Times Wu Xue Er strongly condemned the Chinese Communist Party for hiring thugs to attack the factory.
Wu pointed out that this incident was an attack on freedom of speech in Hong Kong to silence media outlets that report the truth.
And this time, the fact that an Epoch Times newsrack accidentally entered the blockbuster scene seems to continue to touch the sensitive nerves of Beijing.
Apart from that, another possible reason for the ban could be that since the beginning of 2021, Beijing has heavily cracked down on entertainment and cultural activities, ordered to control or ban video game activities, and movie stars with a huge fanbase.
The dismal fate of Marvel movies in China
There have indeed been a lot of hopes riding on Doctor Strange 2. Its predecessor grossed $109 million in China, where no movie featuring a Marvel character was released since “Avengers: Endgame.”
According to CBR, while the official quota for foreign films stands at 34 per annum, the CCP-ruled government has acted to encourage nationalism and promote the values and views held by the Party. This entails minimizing symbols and notions conveyed in foreign movies, particularly those featured in Hollywood blockbusters.
Regarding Doctor Strange 2, on May 1, the English mouthpiece of CCP Global Times commented on the American blockbuster: “After the exposure of such a controversy, it is unknown whether Marvel Studios will remove the Falun Gong element from the film. But no matter what it chooses to do, it has almost no impact on China. After all, it will only be a matter of one more or one less US movie in the Chinese market.”
The online version of “China Youth” also republished an article criticizing Doctor Strange 2, noting that the inclusion of the Epoch Times news rack in the film is “a matter of ideological dissemination.”
Few Hollywood blockbusters were allowed in Chinese theaters for different reasons in recent years. “Black Widow” never screened in China, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” “Venom: Let There Be Carnage,” and “Eternals” were banned. And most recently, “Spider-Man: No Way Home” was never given a release date in China, though no official reason was provided.
According to The Telegraph, one of the reasons CCP officials objected to “Spider-Man: No Way Home” was because the Statue of Liberty was featured heavily in the film’s climactic final act.
CCP officials requested that Sony remove the figure, but the company refused to do so. The blockbuster was later banned in China theaters.
But despite being banned in China, “Spider-Man: No Way Home” has broken the box office record of the “Spider-Man” sequels. According to CNBC: “With $1.77 billion, the Sony-Disney co-production has become the sixth-highest grossing film of all time, just behind “Titanic” (1997), which stands at $1.84 billion. And it reached that figure without a China release”.
The movie was widely discussed on Sina Weibo. The keyword “Spider-Man” was on the hot search list.
Ban, ban and ban
Apart from hits, many famous foreign stars are also “banned” from entering China because of the so-called “sensitive reasons.”
Earlier this year, several Chinese online platforms (such as Tencent Video, Youku, and Migu Video) have reportedly removed films of Hollywood star Keanu Reeves from their platforms. The act followed his participation in the Tibet House Benefit Concert, held annually in early March.
Brad Pitt and Selena Gomez were banned from traveling to China to film and meet the Dalai Lama. Richard Gere was banned for giving a surprise speech about China’s human rights abuses against Tibet during the 1993 Oscars.
In 2016, Anastasia Lin—the reigning Miss World Canada at that time—took the lead role in the movie “The Bleeding Edge,” a Canadian-Chinese film about human rights abuses in China. The film primarily depicts the decades-long persecution of the spiritual movement Falun Gong in this country.
After that, the Chinese authorities officially banned Ms. Lin from participating in the 65th annual Miss World pageant held in China.
We will only list a few banned movies because Beijing’s “red lines” are too many. Human rights issues in Tibet, Uighurs genocide, tensions in the Taiwan Strait, persecution of Falun Gong practitioners, Hong Kong protests, etc.
In March 2021, the China regime was said to have ordered state television not to broadcast the 2021 Academy Awards because one of the Oscar-nominated films was about the protest movement in Hong Kong, China.
The 2021 Oscar-nominated film in the category of “Best Short Film” banned from Chinese television is called “Do Not Split,” which is about the 2019 Hong Kong protests.
The film’s Norwegian director Anders Hammer told the Hong Kong Free Press that his goal is to “capture the violence on the streets of Hong Kong when young protesters are risking everything in the fight for their own future.”
Global Times quickly criticized the film saying, “lacks artistry, full of political bias” and accused the Oscars of becoming a “political tool.”
Is the CCP worrying about Marvel’s huge fanbase?
Back to the story of Doctor Strange 2, netizen Paddy Dukes commented on the “Deadline” article that Marvel movies have a huge cultural influence on a global scale.
Under the CCP viewpoint, Marvel movies are seen as an approach that actively promotes Western values and a form of American soft power.
“That is definitely a small part of it, though I wouldn’t phrase it the way they do. For the full story, you need to take into account all the recent crackdowns on entertainment and fan culture that occurred in China throughout late 2021. The CCP has regulated or banned video games, idol shows, almost anything with a massive local fanbase that could possibly divert influence away from the CCP for failure to promote “Traditional Chinese Values.” The Marvel films, whether you like them or not, inarguably has an outsized cultural influence throughout the globe. This is especially true in China, where these movies have made 30-40% of their global box office revenue.
The Marvel Studios films make billions in China while actively promoting Western values, allowing them to act as a form of American soft power. A fan base that large, supporting movies and television shows that espouse values that all but oppose those of the CCP are seen as a risk to the party’s influence, especially among the young people that love these and who don’t necessarily have a positive sentiment of their government . This risk is especially acute when it’s a Marvel film like Shang-Chi, that has a majority ethnically Chinese cast with half the film’s dialogue in Mandarin. Or if it’s a Marvel film made by an internationally renowned, award winning Chinese filmmaker, like Chloé Zhao’s Eternals.
This is all a small part of a larger political strategy to block almost anything with enormous local fan support that could divert power and influence away from the CCP.”
The trailer was released on April 29.
Three days later, on May 2, Epoch Times New York discovered a total of 44 newsracks at 28 locations in Lower Manhattan and Chinatown had been graffitied overnight. The Epoch Times has notified the police about the incident of vandalism.
Deputy Editor-in-Chief of Epoch Times Huang Wanqing said Epoch Times newsracks are distributed across New York City, especially among the Chinese community. He suspects it could be a case of smearing because the CCP banned the film in China.
Because the Epoch Times promotes the truth and exposes the lies of the CCP, it poses a serious threat to the CCP. Epoch Times said that it will continue to work closely with New York City police to solve this disruptive incident as soon as possible.