On July 14, Disney will make a decision that will forever brand itself as a movie studio that is more interested in making money than making art. While moviemaking today is unashamedly a business and Disney is already synonymous with capitalism, it is still shocking when a film studio would compromise art for money.
This week, Pearl Harbor will face its biggest hurdle since attempting to be a realistic war film with a PG-13 rating – it will be released in Japan.
Japan is the world’s second largest movie market – Titanic grossed $225 million in the land of the rising sun alone, more than a third of its total U.S. gross ($600 million). So it would make sense for Disney to be concerned about how the Japanese people may react to seeing their country be portrayed in a negative light. But if Disney was afraid of how the Japanese would respond to a film that blames Japan for bringing America into WW II, then Disney should have never made Pearl Harbor in the first place.
So now, the film is being edited for content specifically for Japan’s release. While the changes to the film are actually minor, Disney is setting a precedent by saying it doesn’t believe in its own product. In the new version, the Japanese calendar that shows “Dec. 7, 1941” has been changed to Dec. 8, because it was the following morning Japan time when the attack occurred. Fine, that’s not a big deal.
And some of the lines are changed in translation. Instead of American fighter pilots calling the Japanese, “Jap suckers,” they are instead just “Japs.” Alec Baldwin’s speech was edited for content, because using a certain word that would imply all Japanese children are illegitimate and without fathers might be considered offensive. Kate Beckinsale’s final speech sounds a bit too cocky, so that and the Japanese Admiral’s lines are being redubbed so the Japanese can understand them better.
But here’s the thing, everyone knows that Japan bombed America, and as a result, we weren’t too happy about it and probably used a few choice words here and there to express our understandable anger. Disney apparently thinks that it would lose money if it represented the truth.
But in an even more extreme move, the entire marketing campaign in Japan is focusing on a love story and downplaying the fact that Pearl Harbor is first and foremost a war movie. In the advertisements, not one Japanese character is shown because certain groups are suggesting the film relies on Asian stereotypes.
Instead, Ben Affleck and Kate Beckinsale are shown writing love letters back and forth. This move perpetuates Disney’s misplaced importance on exit polls and number crunching over quality storytelling.
Pearl Harbor is the first modern war film rated PG-13 because Disney wants to release films made for the whole family.
Because the film did not show the full carnage that was left after the bombing, historians have criticized it as just another excuse to blow people up. A line needs to be drawn somewhere because Pearl Harbor has been through enough.
Disney should allow Pearl Harbor to stand on its own feet, unchanged from the American version, and see what happens. It’s a great film. However, by changing even one line compromises Disney’s artistic integrity and it shows a lack of faith in Japan’s appreciation of quality entertainment.
– William Albritton is a senior majoring in mass communications.