Hollywood Diplomacy

Did you watch last night's 93rd Academy Awards? This week's review looks at the intersection between Hollywood's representations of East Asia, commercial interests, and US politics.

Hollywood Diplomacy: Film Regulation, Foreign Relations, and East Asian Representations

Chung, Hye Seung. Rutgers, 2020
243p bibl index, 9781978801561 $120.00, 9781978801554 $32.95, 9781978801578

Hollywood Diplomacy: Film Regulation, Foreign Relations, and East Asian Representations book cover

In 2020, the South Korean film Parasite took the 2020 Academy Awards by storm as the first non-English language film to win best picture (and other Oscars); the award elicited a nasty response from the US’s current administration. Clearly Chung’s Hollywood Diplomacy is timely. It is also expertly researched. Chung (Colorado State Univ., Fort Collins) looks at how Hollywood produced, marketed, and sometimes reproduced films based on relationships—whether stable or strained—with China, Japan, and North and South Korea. Chung proceeds in chronological order, discussing such polarizing films as Welcome Danger (1929), Shanghai Express (1932), The Purple Heart (1944), Die Another Day (2002), and The Interview (2014), among others, focusing on each film without going on tangents. Some gaps in the timeline could have been filled, but that is this reviewer’s only complaint. The book provides a new and fresh understanding of how policies, censorship, and the propaganda machine can influence screenwriters, directors, and production companies. A deft combination of history and textual analysis, Hollywood Diplomacy provides insight into how Hollywood has often wrongly represented East Asian people and then attempted to save face and money by editing out those problematic representations.

Summing Up: Essential. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty.
Reviewer: 
D. C. MacLeod, SUNY Cobleskill
Subject: Humanities – Performing Arts – Film
Choice Issue: Jan 2021


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