"Titanic": Worker Tested, Party Approved (Chinese Communist Party)

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by Daniel Frankel April 18, 1998, 1:50 p.m. PT

Lucky for Oscar-winning director James Cameron he didn't make his huge hit Titanic during the McCarthy era--he'd probably be at the top of the big blacklist. The reason: Communists like his movie. Seems the story's portrayal of heroic poor and cowardly, villainous rich resonates just fine with Chinese President Jiang Zemin, who, according to the Wall Street Journal, has urged other socialist leaders in his government to see Titanic. After all, it's a film featuring scenes of third-class passengers (the proletariat) struggling valiantly against the ship's crew (the capitalists watchdogs) to escape the steerage decks and seize the life boats (the means of production) from the first-class passengers (the bourgeoisie). Karl Marx himself couldn't manifestoed it better--never mind that British conservatives have bristled in recent weeks that historical records reveal no evidence at all that second- and third-class passengers were locked below decks, as portrayed in the film. "This movie gives vivid descriptions of the relationship between money and love, rich and poor, and the performance of all kinds of people in danger," the Journal quotes a statement from the Chinese president. "I don't mean to publicize capitalism, but [as the saying goes], 'Know thine enemy and know yourself, and you can fight a hundred battles with no danger of defeat." But while government officials praise its ideology, the masses are flocking to the film for more apolitical reasons--most Chinese movie-goers polled by the Journal, for example, cited the film's love story as their inspiration for shelling out $8 (10 percent of the average Beijing resident's monthly income). One of only 10 Hollywood films the Chinese government will let into their country this year--the limits are set to protect the fragile movie industry there--Titanic has benefited from the good word-of-mouth, and the free publicity in government-run media, to gross a reported $1 million dollars in China in its first week of release. Titanic is on course to break the Chinese box-office record of $1.9 million set by The Lost World: Jurassic Park last year. Meanwhile, Chinese film officials are worried: How can their low-budget industry possibly deal with the enlarged audience expectations that Titanic's digital technology and special effects will produce? Not to worry, comrades--the government is putting $3 million--a little over 1 percent of Cameron's budget for Titanic--into technological upgrades for China's major studios, the Journal adds.

-- Dan Draghici (ddraghic@sprint.ca), April 19, 1998


Dan, are you trying to bait me? :-)

Maybe the Chinese know that they can't keep this film out: it's too popular around the world. So, if they're going to let it in, they have to give it some sort of socialist "spin" to justify the official seal of approval.

Remember, communist officials are masters at making anything into socialist propaganda. In Soviet Russia they made everything from Handel's "Messiah" to "Star Wars" into celebrations of the proletariat. If Chinese communists want "Titanic" to be left-wing propaganda, they will find a way to justify it.

Famous saying by a wise statistician: if you torture the data enough, it will confess to anything.

-- Thomas Shoebotham (cathytom@ix.netcom.com), April 19, 1998.

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