Chinese officials have long been vigilant, paranoid even, about Hollywood spreading Western values in the country.
The latest proof appears as an editorial in a People’s Liberation Army newspaper criticizing Zootopia, the animated Disney feature, for spreading Western messages in the “invisible battlefield” of propaganda.
The movie is a hit in China, passing Kung Fu Panda 3 as the top animated movie of all-time and earning more than $230 million in box office sales, Box Office Mojo says.
The PLA newspaper puts forth Zootopia’s swapping of the roles of predator and prey as proof of its agitprop. In Zootopia, the villain is a sheep, its victims all predators, and the savior is a rabbit. The paper takes issue with the role reversal.
A rabbit counteracting its timid nature to play a savior is messaging the American Dream—that anyone can make it—the editorial said.
Its protestations border on the absurd, but China’s ruling Communist Party treats propaganda as a top concern. Huge budgets are allocated to their own propaganda. The major newspapers are state-run. And censors have recently targeted Western entertainment.
What the PLA paper fails to mention is that Hollywood often shapes its movies to appease the Chinese. For example, Gravity painted the Russians as villains for blowing up a satellite that eventually imperils Sandra Bullock. But it was the Chinese in 2007 who used an anti-satellite weapon to blow up an old weather satellite in orbit.
China censors are grasping to eliminate “Western values” in television shows, movies, and art, as well as textbooks, as part President Xi Jinping’s drive for ideological purity in the form of greater Marxist teachings.
Zootopia is the latest strawman.