Where I Try to Explain Red Dawn

I’ve begun seeing trailers on TV, and apparently it hit theatres two days ago, so I figure now’s as good a time to talk about Red Dawn as any.

For those of you who don’t know, Red Dawn is a remake of the 1984 film of the same name. In the original the United States is invaded by both the Soviet Union and its Cuban allies. A group of plucky high schoolers bands together to form a guerrilla fighting force, named the Wolverines after their high school mascot.

In remaking the film the studio, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), realized that they needed to modernize the invaders in light of the current political climate, and chose China. Keep in mind that in the original film that country was apparently America’s only ally, with the following exchange taking place:

“…Well, who is on our side?”
“Six hundred million screaming Chinamen.”
“Last I heard, there were a billion screaming Chinamen.”
There were.”

Production was going smoothly until the summer of 2010 when the Global Times, a Chinese state-run newspaper, got a hold of leaked excerpts of the script. This prompted such headlines as “U.S. reshoots Cold War movie to demonize China” and “American movie plants hostile seeds against China.” In early 2011 the LA Times reported that the film’s villains were changed from Chinese to North Korean to “[maintain] access to the Asian superpower’s lucrative box office.

North Koreans: There may be a lot of them, but they’re not watching our movies!

In that same article one of the producers is quoted as saying: “We were initially very reluctant to make any changes, but after careful consideration we constructed a way to make a scarier, smarter and more dangerous ‘Red Dawn’ that we believe improves the movie.”

No reshoots were done, and a reported less than $1 million was spent on changing the opening sequence that sets up the film, re-editing two scenes, and digitally editing the Chinese symbols in the film to Korean. The villainous General Lo was changed to Captain Cho. Oh, and all of the lines in Mandarin were dubbed over to Korean.

Gordon and I were talking about this a few days ago, and one of the biggest problems with the film is that the original that it’s based on was a result of its era. Back in the day people were afraid of the USSR, and were legitimately terrified of being invaded. Today? The United States are a military super power and have almost 200,000 troops stationed in other countries.

The fact that producer Trip Vinson said that the change made the film “scarier, smarter, and more dangerous” is completely nonsensical. How would North Korea ever invade the US? Furthermore, why would they? The saddest thing about this premise is that it’s not even original. The video game Homefront takes place in a world where North Korea invades the US after taking control of all of South East Asia:

What’s most ridiculous, and what helps tie in my tirade against Homefront in with this post on Red Dawn, is that the enemy was again originally supposed to be China.

I’m getting way off-track, and I apologize. My point was that the film in and of itself doesn’t make a lick of sense. The other issue I have is that in addition to this all of the footage of Chinese forces was considered to be interchangeable with that of Korean ones. Ironically, the actor chosen to portray General Lo is Korean, and his casting is now racially accurate. I could write a full other post about how Hollywood views actors’ abilities to portray almost any race, so I’ll save that for later.

In summary, Red Dawn used to have Chinese invaders, which is, while extremely improbable, still more likely than the North Koreans they changed them to. Money is the issue at the heart of this problem, since it’s what prompted the change and what ultimately makes all the decisions when it comes to the entertainment industry. All of that aside, the film still treats minorities in a horrible fashion, which you can read at Racebending.com’s review of Red Dawn

Here’s a trailer for the movie, where you can watch Thor, Josh sans Drake, and Peeta fend off an Asian invasion; I’m going to go lie down:

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5 responses to “Where I Try to Explain Red Dawn

  1. I can see how it will be a story that’s compelling to movie-going audiences, because it puts the US in a novel situation and creates the opportunity to shoot guns, blow things up and not feel guilty about being patriotic. But its being a remake kind of ruins the “novelty” of it.

    The whole premise is no longer fueled by the fear we have of foreign powers–it’s only a dodgy premise fueled by nostalgia. And a foolish premise, too. You definitely don’t want to just go around saying that the world’s biggest buyer/seller of good with YOUR economy is willy-nilly invading it. It’s foolish it’s impractical.

    So now I have to dig up a copy of the original ^^.

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  3. Just decided I should probably read this and had some thoughts.

    I have never seen the original Red Dawn, though it’s long been on my list of “must watch at some point, looks silly” movies. Having lived in the former USSR I figure I could really get into this kind of over the top movies about fighting them, just like I really get into Goldeneye. But movies like the original Red Dawn, many of the James Bond movies, and so many other movies made sense in the context of the cold war. Today we’ve moved away from a cold war with the Russians and moved into a perceived “War on Terror” with “Arabs” and “Muslims.” I disgustingly overuse quotation marks because I think the whole “War on Terror” idea is racist and stupid, but that’s beside the point.

    I think aside from the whole money issue, which is definitely a huge, if not the primary issue, media is also looking for a new bad guy. Giving someone a Russian accent isn’t as appropriate an indicator of being a bad guy as it used to be, and making somebody Arab is already what everybody else is doing. In order to have a fresh bad guy we need a new cold war. I think that what may be happening is people are seeing China as a major economic competitor and N. Korea as a major “we’re crazy, nukes huzzah!”, and both being communist Asian countries just lump them together and say “Commie Asia is the new Commie Russia! New cold war villain for the win!”

    Just my thoughts on that. Also, Homefront…I’m just so embarrassed that exists. I’m glad you mentioned that, because it was the first thing I thought of.

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  5. Pingback: How Marvel Ruined The Movies | Culture War Reporters

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