‘Red Dawn’: Jittery MGM replaces Chinese invasion with North Korean attack

March 16, 2011 | 10:44 a.m.

Los Angeles Times reporters John Horn and Ben Fritz reveal the changing battle plan for the “Red Dawn” remake …

red dawn Red Dawn: Jittery MGM replaces Chinese invasion with North Korean attack

Poster for the original "Red Dawn"

China has become such an important market for U.S. entertainment companies that one studio has taken the extraordinary step of digitally altering a film to excise bad guys from the Communist nation lest the leadership in Beijing be offended.

When MGM decided a few years ago to remake “Red Dawn,” a 1984 Cold War drama about a bunch of American farm kids repelling a Soviet invasion, the studio needed new villains, since the U.S.S.R. had collapsed in 1991. The producers substituted Chinese aggressors for the Soviets and filmed the movie in Michigan in 2009.

But potential distributors are nervous about becoming associated with the finished film, concerned that doing so would harm their ability to do business with the rising Asian superpower, one of the fastest-growing and potentially most lucrative markets for American movies, not to mention other U.S. products.

As a result, the filmmakers now are digitally erasing Chinese flags and military symbols from “Red Dawn,” substituting dialogue and altering the film to depict much of the invading force as being from North Korea, an isolated country where American media companies have no dollars at stake. The changes illustrate just how much sway China’s government has in the global entertainment industry, even without uttering a word of official protest. Although it’s unclear if anyone in China has seen “Red Dawn,” a leaked version of the script last year resulted in critical editorials in the Global Times, a communist party-controlled paper.


— John Horn and Ben Fritz


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18 Responses to ‘Red Dawn’: Jittery MGM replaces Chinese invasion with North Korean attack

  1. --LL-- says:

    My opinion is that these changes are not just about "commercial jitters", I think MGM is awaking to the fact that this movie is just plain offensive to most Asians.

    As a second generation Chinese American man, I for one am frankly relieved for myself and my children that the producers decided not to make “Chinese people” the enemy. This kind of film does nothing but propagate stereotypical and hateful attitudes which inevitably leads to racist taunting in schools and streets.

    I know, I have been called out more times than I would like to remember as a child and teen just by “being there”, whether at a rock concert, or when I was pitching for little league, a party at my own frat house, or vacationing with my parents…you get the picture. Believe me…the taunts hurt.

    As an adult and parent, if I can spare my child or any child the lameness of racism in any way, I am happy.

  2. --LL-- says:

    My opinion is that these changes are not just about "commercial jitters", I think MGM is awaking to the fact that this movie is just plain offensive to most Asians.

  3. Talong says:

    Now I got it. There is no more Russian to kick around, it's now the turn of the Chinese to be the bad guys. Wonder how long we have to wait before the pope make it to the wanted list. Of course the American can do no wrong. They invaded Afghanistan, Granada, Panama & Iraq but you are still the good guy. Hhhhmmmm.

  4. Kevin says:

    China has no record of foreign adventurism, except for when they aided N. Korea when they were about to lose the Korean War. Regardless of China's other shortcomings, this is one thing that cannot be factually said about China.

    The idea that the DPRK has the ability to invade the USA is beyond absurd, however.

  5. Julian Ortega says:

    Of course this political corrrectness doesn't avoid that Hollywood choose to portray arabs like terrorists, latinos like drug smugglers, white males like serial killers or paedophiles, afroamericans like gangstas, gays like sassies, and so on… But God help you if you piss off our Chinese overlords!

    • sara says:

      exactly. sorry LL. unless you are willing to spare your children all forms of racism, your comments ring hollow.

      • Steph says:

        I fail to see how it "rings hollow." You've tried and convicted him over nothing he's said. He's speaking as a Chinese American. That's it.

        We're all people trying to get by. Where's the compassion and love?

    • Steph says:

      Wow, I really hope you were just having a bad day and not normally that insensitive and judgemental.

      The person just expressed how unfair and unrealistic Hollywood and the media has been towards Asians specifically. He didn't say anything about other groups or that Asians were superior and should not be pissed off.

      Hollywood is guilty of portraying every group in a bad light. Now that I'm thinking about this, there seems to be one group that never seems to be portrayed negatively but always assimilated. And I'm definitely not talking about white male or female Americans.

      Interesting… how can this be?

  6. guest says:


  7. Wayne Bergeron says:

    Let's be honest: How the hell is North Korea going to invade the United States? The premise of the original Red Dawn was that communism had spread worldwide and it was a realistic possibilty of Russia, aided by Cuba, to invade the U.S. But how the hell is a nation comprised of nearly 21 million starving people going to invade a country 5,000 miles away without it's "big brother" China not supporting it? China invading was a realistic possibility and that would have made for a more interesting plotline than North Korea. Just like the re-make of the Karate Kid, I smell a stinker. Where are the movie makers and studios that want to make films that have an ounce of realism?

    • Steph says:

      Well said.

      I just wonder how this got made. It's definitely not an art-house film and it doesn't seem to be a blockbuster waiting to happen. Isn't Hollywood about show "business?"

      It just feels like it was originally meant to be Anti-China "Yellow Peril" propaganda that we've been seeing all over the media the past decade.

  8. Satori says:

    I think the real issue here is why does Hollywood still hold the RACIST view that Chinese and Koreans look alike?

    Its the 21st century and old Hollywood still remains unchanged.

    Its like what they did with "Hunger Games" and the casting of the Katniss character.

    In the book, Katniss is described as having dark features. Black hair and olive skin. So when the studio was holding auditions for that role, instead of allowing olive-skin actors to take part in it, they excluded them. This when they specifically asked for Caucasians to audition.

    If you thought the Hollywood whitewashing and race-bending stopped with 'The Last Airbender', well, what they did with Red Dawn is proof that things are still as screwed up as ever.

  9. Thomas says:

    " Having the north koreans in it is kind of like swapping all the soviets out and
    replacing them with the Swiss army so that Red Dawn 1 would sell in Moscow."
    MGM should be ashamed. To make these changes so as not to offend
    communist China. What a joke. What a way to kill interest in this movie.
    At least with China as the invader the movie had some sense of plausibility,
    especially since they were being aided by the Russians. Now the plot will also
    have to be changed, needless to say this film will be a wreck. Plotholes aplenty.
    Have to hand to MGM, they just more than likely ruined what would have been a
    boxoffice hit. Since MGM sold out to China, i hope the film bombs.

    • Steph says:

      Haha exactly!

      I think the original script of this remake was doomed from the beginning.

      Yes, America does have enemies but to write China as the main invader taking over small town USA? lol

      As much as the media bashes China and perpetuates the "Yellow Peril," China has never shown any military aggression towards Western countries. They were part of the Allied Forces.

      I hope it does bomb so the media stops with this Anti-Asia propaganda.

  10. Svin says:

    It's a movie, boneheads!

    Get over all of the political ramifications, and whether or not North Koria could ever invade the USA….

    • Steph says:

      Yup, there is no such thing as propaganda.

      Movies like "Birth of A Nation, Top Gun, Gung-Ho, Rising Sun and Shooter were made for pure entertainment.

      And the housing and financial crisis just happened. There's never anyone pulling strings and doing things for vested interests.

  11. Marangu6 says:

    In the original movie, the Chinese were the "good guys", fighting the Soviets as our main ally, even though they were way more Communist back then than they are today. The Soviets were a plausible villain then because they WERE our cold war adversary; they did have the capability, if not quite the motive, to mount such an invasion. It's unlikely that any Russian would have been offended by their depiction in the movie.

    Not so with the remake. The Chinese neither see themselves as our enemy nor wish to be our adversary. They resent the constant China-bashing practiced with such relish by our political class and certain segment of the media today, but recognize that there is little they can do to counter the fear-mongering and scapegoating efforts. This movie is seen not just as a silly fantasy, but rather a modern embodiment of the kind of ignorant paranoia that has been fueling anti-Chinese sentiments since the "yellow peril" and Chinese Exclusionary Act days. It is feeding the fear and loathing of a people that is at peace with us, who desperately want to keep that peace.

    It is not the Chinese government that MGM was trying to placate, but rather the Chinese movie goers, who are certain to find this remake stupid, offensive and highly depressing, and would have stayed away in droves. Horn and Fritz are idiots if they couldn't see this.

  12. Steph says:

    Watched the original "Red Dawn" as a kid some time after "Dirty Dancing" and enjoyed Patrick Swayze and his gang in the movie. I was too young and innocent to understand propaganda and how powerful movies and the media can be.

    Now that I've lived and learned a little… movies like this are so transparent, manipulative and quite frankly sad.

    Why would a producer or director want to make this film? It doesn't seem like a good business investment. Isn't that what "show business" is about? Because this sure doesn't feel like an art-film.

    Could there possibly be an ulterior motive? Why pick an Asian antagonist to the US when there seems to be more "plausible" threats?

    It just seems as of late (if not historically), that the West has used Asians as a scapegoat to "wag the dog." Think "The Yellow Peril" or the anti-Japanese sentiment of the late-80s early 90s.

    China or Korea has never shown aggression towards the West, yet this past decade has ridiculously been anti-Chinese to the point that it lacks logic e.g. It wasn't China's fault that there was lead paint in toy cars. It was the company Mattel's fault. The American company even admitted responsibility but apparently that wasn't as headline worthy as "China poisoning American kids."

    The plot line of this remake perpetuates this mistrust towards Asian countries. It's ironic that Western media depicts Asian countries as threats. Do a "Google" search or pick up any history book and you'll see that China and Korea have never shown any aggression towards the West.

    As a matter-of-fact, China built a "great wall" to protect its people from the West, who were trying purchase Chinese goods buy "trading" them opium. After repeated requests were ignored banning the importation of the drug, China finally confiscated ships containing this crippling drug which the West decided to take a stand on and attacked China and then occupied Hong Kong & Macau for 99 years as a lesson. Ironically, China should be making "Red Dawn" type movies.

    So why does the media still want to perpetuate this fear and suspicion towards Asians when it's unfounded? Are there really no intelligent and educated writers in Hollywood that the best they can come up with is China or North Korea taking over America through small-town USA? ie re-hashing the Yellow Peril.

    I am fascinated how the "Yellow Peril" still exists. In the past, this "Asian threat" was used as a smokescreen to accomplish political goals. Is history repeating itself? Is there some group or power that's re-using this device through the media to maintain their "one percent" status?"

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