Disney, one of the largest and most influential movie studios in the world, arguably had a single job to do when controversy exploded in the wake of Mulan’s at-home release. When the film’s credits revealed the company had shot parts of the film in a region of China where Uighurs are facing a xenophobic crackdown, all the company had to do was, y’know, condemn genocide.
Instead, it just...didn’t.
Over the past week, Disney has stayed relatively silent about the growing backlash to the revelation that the movie’s credits gave “special thanks” to eight Xinjiang region-based wings of the Chinese government, including multiple CCP propaganda departments and the Public Security Bureau in the city of Turpan.
Turpan has been at the epicenter of allegations that the Chinese government has spent years surveilling the Muslim minority Uighur people with increasingly draconian methods. The government has been accused of detaining and interring Uighurs in camps that have faced accusations of brutal “reeducation” tactics to assimilate Uighurs into wider Chinese society. There have even been allegations of forced abortion and sterilization. So, naturally, Disney inadvertently embroiling itself in an international situation that includes multiple accusations of human rights violations is not ideal, to say the least.
Now, Disney’s first comments about the response have finally emerged—and they’re somehow almost worse than the company staying silent. Speaking to Variety yesterday, Disney CFO Christine McCarthy briefly touched upon the film’s credits. “It’s common to acknowledge in a film’s credits the national and local governments that allowed you to film there,” McCarthy told the trade. “It has generated a lot of publicity. Let’s leave it at that.”
McCarthy also added that the backlash has “generated a lot of issues” for Disney. What those issues are, she declined to specify—but, perhaps cynically for us to ponder, they’re likely not issues related to condemning a horrifying act of cultural genocide, and more related to the fact that, thanks to the backlash, the Chinese government has reportedly censored all press coverage of Mulan as it heads into its crucial opening weekend at the box office in the country.
Given how important Disney wants Mulan to be there, a lack of local coverage in the run-up to release will no doubt generate “a lot of issues” for the House of Mouse—financially speaking, if not perhaps ethically. io9 has reached out to Disney (again) to seek clarification about McCarthy’s commentary on the situation, and will update this post if we hear back.
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