Hollywood film “Monster Hunter” has been pulled from cinemas in China after a massive backlash over a pun local audiences have deemed to be racist.
The fantasy action, scheduled for a U.S. release on Christmas Day, grossed $5.19 million in its Chinese debut on Dec. 4 before most theaters stopped screening it the next day.
The problem lies in a scene showing an Asian soldier, played by rapper MC Jin, and a White soldier driving together at high speed.
“Look at my knees!” the Asian soldier yells.
His companion asks, “What kind of knees are these?”
“Chi-nese!” Jin’s character replies, making a pun out of the word’s last syllable.
The joke did not sit well among some Chinese viewers, who reportedly interpreted it as a racist insult. The pun, according to Variety, echoes an old schoolyard rhyme that goes, “Chi-nese, Jap-a-nese, dir-ty knees, look at these.”
The scene’s Chinese subtitles, however, conveyed differently. Instead, they read “Do you know what’s underneath my knees? Gold.”
The translation is likely trying to reference the Chinese proverb “There is gold underneath a man’s knees,” which means a man does not simply yield or submit to others.
Some social media users pointed out that the subtitles attempt to mask the original words. This only angered more people.
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“Even though subtitles come with the films sent for approval, censors you need to listen carefully before you pass it. Did you even listen to the dialogue?” wrote Weibo influencer Xiaozhu Nanhai, according to the South China Morning Post.
Another user called to investigate Tencent’s film arm, which co-produced the movie.
“Tencent Pictures has problems too. I don’t believe such a big company would not have English speakers. How did the subtitles group come to this translation? Please investigate them.”
The film, produced, written and directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, is loosely based on the role-playing video game of the same title, developed by Capcom.
The rhyme has been used against people of Chinese and Japanese descent that immigrated to the West
It also has a number of sexist connotations in the second part about “dirty knees” & “look at these”
Here is the rhyme referenced in a family guy episodehttps://t.co/jyp2IsPL3T
— Daniel Ahmad (@ZhugeEX) December 5, 2020
Amid the backlash, Capcom quickly distanced itself from responsible parties.
“Because the game series ‘Monster Hunter’ and the movie ‘Monster Hunter’ are produced by different companies, after hearing everyone’s feedback to the movie, we have collected many opinions and have relayed them to the relevant companies,” the Japanese game developer said in a statement.
Constantin Film, a German company that co-produced the film, has apologized to Chinese viewers.
“There was absolutely no intent to discriminate, insult or otherwise offend anyone of Chinese heritage. Constantin Film has listened to the concerns expressed by Chinese audiences and removed the line that has led to this inadvertent misunderstanding,” the company said, according to CNN Business.
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In a new Instagram video, Jin defended his lines’ intentions, saying that the moment was supposed to fuel pride of the Chinese heritage.
“It’s a pun, and the way I portrayed the character and the emotion of it is, this is a moment for him to proudly proclaim that he is a Chinese soldier. Not just his knees, but his arms, his head, his heart,” Jin said. “This has nothing to do with that stupid ‘Chinese, Japanese, dirty knees’ … whatever the heck that is.”
The rapper described that the dialogue being flipped upside down was “eating at his heart,” but he also apologized to those offended.
“For anybody that misunderstood or thought it was meant to be belittling, I sincerely apologize, I do,” Jin said. “My whole career, if nothing else, I’ve been vocal and proud of my heritage. I stand against discrimination, racial discrimination, of any kind, anywhere, anytime.”
Jin has previously spoken about racism towards Asian Americans, especially the hate brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. He used his platform to speak out against the attack in Bensonhurst, where a 90-year-old grandmother was set on fire earlier this year. His voice, along with New York rapper China Mac and others, gave rise to the #TheyCantBurnUsAll movement.
Reports say that the scene in question has been removed, but it’s unclear whether a new version of the film will be released in China. Whether the dialogue is retained or removed in versions that play in other countries is also unknown.
While the film’s future in China looks bleak, it debuted No. 1 in Taiwan ($1.5 million), Saudi Arabia ($550,000), UAE ($305,000) and the Netherlands ($180,000), according to Deadline.
Feature Image Screenshots via MC Jin