A bizarre editorial in China’s PLA Daily newspaper accuses Disney’s animated film Zootopia of being subtle propaganda for American values and Western strategies for world dominance.
The film’s role reversal of natural predators and prey, where the bad guy is a sheep, the victims are predators and the police officer is a rabbit indoctrinates young viewers into thinking, “What American dreams cannot be realized by ordinary people?” the paper said Wednesday.
“In the harsh reality of the world, it will always be the wolf to eat the sheep, instead of the sheep eating the wolf. Even a child can understand this,” the essay declares.
The ultimate irony is that the PLA Daily is the official newspaper of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), and itself serves as a propaganda outlet for the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party.
Yet the Chinese military newspaper charged the Hollywood box-office hit with promoting U.S. values through “invisible propaganda.”
“Hollywood has long been an effective propaganda machine for the U.S. by using blockbuster films to promote U.S. values and global strategy,” the editorial reads.
The paper also said that Western cultural exponents have developed a “tried and true” set of methods to spread their core values, and that, “Hollywood has long been an effective propaganda machine for the U.S.”
Zootopia has been a runaway success in China, earning a total of 1.45 billion yuan ($223.59 million) at box offices since its release on March 4. Having passed up Kung Fu Panda 3, Zootopia is now the largest grossing animated movie of all time in China.
In its attack on U.S. “propaganda” against China, the PLA Daily also cites the 2013 sci-fi monster film Pacific Rim, where the central battle with the monster takes place in the South China Sea.
Yet as an article in Fortune has pointed out, Hollywood is actually willing to distort history in favor of the Chinese. In the 2013 film Gravity, the Russians are the villains who blow up a satellite, which puts Sandra Bullock’s life in danger. In reality, it was the Chinese in 2007 “who used an anti-satellite weapon to blow up an old weather satellite in orbit,” Fortune noted.
China has long been convinced that culture must be centrally controlled and assumes that foreign art and literature are similarly the instruments of government.
“When confronted with these forms of invisible propaganda, simply boycotting is not enough,” the article said. The editorial stated rather that citizens should invest in Chinese-made cultural products to compete with their Western counterparts.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter Follow @tdwilliamsrome