'Monster Hunter' Movie Pulled From Chinese Cinemas After 'Knees' Joke Falls Flat

““Monster Hunter,” Sony Pictures’ big-budget film based on Capcom’s long-running video game franchise, was pulled from China theaters because of a scene that Chinese audiences found offensive.  The film, directed by Paul W.S. Anderson and starring his wife, Milla Jovovich, tells the tale of a military squad pulled into a world populated by monstrous behemoths. It debuted in China on Friday only to generate immediate flak. In a controversial scene, two military men joke with each other while driving across a desert. One — played by Asian American rapper Jin Au-Yeung, better known as MC Jin — asks the other to look at his knees. “What kind of knees are these?” he asks. “Chinese!” The line may reference the playground chant “Chinese, Japanese, dirty knees, look at these.” The rhyme has ambiguous origins but is known as a racist schoolyard jingle often sung by non-Asian children who slant their eyes upward in a caricature of Asian people. The phrase “dirty knees” carries a racist connotation to Asians and Asian Americans. Following the outcry, the film was pulled from Chinese theaters, with refunds issued to moviegoers, according to Variety. There is no indication if or when the film will return or if its Dec. 25 release in the United States will be affected. Daniel Ahmad, an analyst at the market research firm Niko Partners who covers the Chinese video game industry, shared a clip of the scene on Twitter and explained that the film’s Chinese subtitles only exacerbated the outcry from audiences in China. The Monster Hunter movie has been pulled from theatres in China just 1 day after it releasedThis happened after strong backlash on social media over a scene that is considered offensive (below). It is unclear if the movie will returnHere is a thread to explain the situation: https://t.co/9NbV3imLxA— Daniel Ahmad (@ZhugeEX) December 5, 2020 1. I think we can all agree the joke in the OP is poorly executed overall. It’s an attempt at a pun but ends up making \”Chinese\” the punchlineIt’s not particularly clever or funny, just bad writingSurprised it wasn’t removed at some point, especially for the Chinese release— Daniel Ahmad (@ZhugeEX) December 5, 2020 2. Differences in lived experiences and cultural awareness means that a Chinese and English speaker will interpret this in a different way than someone who only speaks English. It’s why the scene was very quickly linked to a racist rhyme / phrase that was used against Asians. pic.twitter.com/AHLperX0TK— Daniel Ahmad (@ZhugeEX) December 5, 2020 Multiple Chinese people, including people i’ve spoken to, said that the scene reminded them of this racist rhyme which goes: \”Chinese, Japanese, dirty knees, look at these\”The rhyme is accompanied with gestures such as slanted eyes, slapping knees and pointing at breasts.— Daniel Ahmad (@ZhugeEX) December 5, 2020 3. This was further exacerbated by the way the film was subtitled in China. The translation was completely changed to reference a Chinese idiom – 男儿膝下有黄金.It essentially became about \”Kneeling down\”, which further played into the \”Dirty Knees\” part of the rhyme.— Daniel Ahmad (@ZhugeEX) December 5, 2020 The disconnect between the English voices and the Chinese subtitles led people to believe that the whole thing was intentional and the backlash on social media intensified as people became more convinced it was a slight against Chinese people.— Daniel Ahmad (@ZhugeEX) December 5, 2020 Critics immediately lambasted “Monster Hunter” on Chinese social media network Weibo. In an unexpected escalation, the Communist Youth League of China even chimed in on the matter, tweeting an image of a massive pair of knees and referencing George Floyd, who died in May after a police officer kneeled on his neck. The post was later deleted but screenshots of it can still be found on Weibo. The official Weibo page of Capcom distanced itself from the fiasco, pointing out that it had little to do with the movie, which was a joint effort among multiple studios in the U.S., Germany, Canada, Japan and China. Nevertheless, Capcom’s latest entry in the game series — “Monster Hunter World” — was hit with an avalanche of negative reviews on the popular gaming platform Steam on Saturday, with many reviewers referencing the “Chinese” line in the film.

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