James Cameron & The (Moral) Abyss

This is embarrassing — especially from someone who recently became a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence:

… James Cameron: “Titanic” is actually censored less this time [in China] than it was in ’97. Because it was their second bite at the apple. It’s gotten much wider and we’re seeing it being less restrictive. So we’re moving in the right direction. The quotas for international films coming in now, it’s a higher quota, the percentage of revenue is higher, so everything is moving in the right direction. You see the market opening up. And I think that that’s having a beneficial effect in that it’s growing the exhibition market internally, if you look at how rapidly theaters are being built here.  …

NYT: You must have had people talk to you to give you a briefing on the censorship process, about how it works or how it’s affected certain films [in China]. Do you have any general thoughts on that?

James Cameron

James Cameron: As an artist, I’m always against censorship. But censorship’s a reality, even in the U.S. We have a form of it there. We used to have the Hays commission. We now have the M.P.A.A. ratings system, which is basically a self-censorship process that prevents government from doing it. But the economic imperatives are that if you get an R rating, the studio won’t make a film that looks like it’s headed toward an R rating, and if you get a R you’ve got to cut it yourself to comply with PG-13. So it’s really just a form of censorship indirectly.”

NYT: Do you consider that the same as Chinese censorship?

James Cameron: You’ve got a little more choice in it. It’s not as draconian. But I can’t be judgmental about another culture’s process. I don’t think that’s healthy.

NYT: Did you talk to other filmmakers – your peers – about Chinese censorship?

James Cameron: No. I’m not interested in their reality. My reality is that I’ve made two films in the last 15 years that both have been resounding successes here, and this is an important market for me. And so I’m going to do what’s necessary to continue having this be an important market for my films. And I’m going to play by the rules that are internal to this market. Because you have to. You know, I can stomp my feet and hold my breath but I’m not going to change people’s minds that way. Now I do feel that everything is trending in the right direction right now, as I mentioned earlier.

Read the whole thing here.


As Mr. Cameron mentioned earlier, “trending in the right direction” isn’t about human rights or freedom of expression; it’s about quotas for international films, share of revenue, and the Chinese market opening up to people like James Cameron. 

If Mr. Cameron suddenly develops an interest in the reality faced by his peers in China — filmmakers, writers, artists, and others — then he should take a peek at Freedom in the World 2012 (published by Freedom House): 


With a sensitive change of leadership approaching in 2012 and popular uprisings against authoritarian regimes occurring across the Middle East, the ruling Chinese Communist Party showed no signs of loosening its grip on power in 2011. Despite minor legal improvements regarding the death penalty and urban property confiscation, the government stalled or even reversed previous reforms related to the rule of law, while security forces resorted to extralegal forms of repression. Growing public frustration over corruption and injustice fueled tens of thousands of protests and several large outbursts of online criticism during the year. The party responded by committing more resources to internal security forces and intelligence agencies, engaging in the systematic enforced disappearance of dozens of human rights lawyers and bloggers, and enhancing controls over online social media.

And this from Reporters Without Borders: 

And this from Liu Xiaobo, winner of the 2010 Nobel Peace Price, who is still under house arrest in China. Mr. Cameron says “you have to” “play by the rules that are internal to this market,” but Liu Xiaobo is a living proof that you don’t: 

Chris Johns & Terry Adamson celebrate NGM's new publishing partnership in the People's Republic of China. (2007)


NO NEW POSTS will be published here after February 6, 2014. THIS IS WHY.