If you haven’t seen the 1999 movie Fight Club yet, here’s a spoiler: after staying one step ahead of authorities for the whole movie, the anti-establishment protagonists are finally arrested by the police and their plan to spark a social revolution fails.
At least, that’s how the story ends in China, where film censors edited the ending to better suit their mores before allowing the movie to stream on Tencent Video over the weekend.
In the original David Fincher classic, starring Edward Norton and Brad Pitt, the two anti-heroes win. The movie ends with Norton’s character—the Narrator—watching as explosives he planted in skyscrapers detonate, demolishing the buildings that house records of major credit card companies, and, theoretically, hitting reset on consumer debt.
On Tencent Video in China, that scene is cut. Instead, a black screen shows a message explaining how the movie ends: “The police rapidly figured out the whole plan and arrested all criminals, successfully preventing the bomb from exploding.”
The written epilogue—always a lazy way to end a movie—also notes that Pitt’s character, Tyler Durden, was sent to a psychiatric hospital, where he was treated and discharged. However, censors didn’t bother to edit out the big reveal that Durden isn’t real; he is a figment of the Narrator’s schizophrenic imagination.
Admittedly, Chinese film buffs should be accustomed to foreign film censorship. Hollywood movies routinely suffer censorship to gain access to the lucrative China market, where regulators only permit 34 foreign films per year to screen at Chinese cinemas and favor features that steer clear of gore, smut, or anti-China rhetoric.
The regulator’s exacting standards, combined with the huge box office potential of the Chinese market, has resulted in some ludicrous film edits. In 2013, for example, the makers of Disney’s Iron Man 3 spliced a scene into the film exclusively for the Chinese market that showed Chinese doctors saving the titular superhero’s life.
The Tencent Video cut of Fight Club isn’t the first time China’s censorship machine has edited content on streaming services, either. Last November, Hong Kong Disney+ viewers noticed that an episode of The Simpson’s from 2005 had been edited to remove a joke about Tiananmen Square.
But film fans weren’t happy with the crudeness of the new Fight Club cut. On the Tencent streaming platform, one viewer commented the tactless edit was “too outrageous.”
It remains unclear who is responsible for the edit—whether it’s Tencent, Chinese authorities, or the film’s producers. But the message is clear: if you’re in China and you’ve seen the original ending to Fight Club, don’t talk about it.
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