China censors gay storyline from 'Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore'

South China Morning Post

Posted at Apr 13 2022 07:20 AM

Jude Law plays Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter franchise film Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore. Handout
Jude Law plays Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter franchise film Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore. Handout

Despite the censorship, the film bombed at the Chinese box office — taking just US$2.97 million on a budget of US$200 million

Many Chinese viewers complained about a lack of Chinese mythological creatures and said the film was less entertaining than previous instalments

The film studio behind the latest Wizarding World franchise movie Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore has caved into a Chinese Government demand to delete references to a gay relationship from the film.

The censored dialogue, the removal of which was a condition of securing the film’s release in the lucrative Chinese market, is an exchange during a pivotal scene between two of the central characters Albus Dumbledore, played in the film by Jude Law, and Gellert Grindelwald, played by Mads Mikkelsen.

The two lines, which amounted to six seconds of the film’s total airtime, were: “ … because I was in love with you.” and “The summer Gellert and I fell in love”.

Online reaction has been critical of the decision to censor the storyline.

“The movie is produced by Warner Bros. They made the choice to allow the content to be censored in order for the movie to be played in China, and profit from that distribution deal. They could have chosen not to. They decided that it’s worth it to censor gay people. Consider that,” wrote Twitter user Daniel Camilo.

In a statement obtained by the South China Morning Post Warner Bros attempted to downplay the significance of the censored lines and claimed the edits were “minor” and had no impact on the film experience for moviegoers.

“A six-second cut was requested and Warner Bros accepted those changes to comply with local requirements but the spirit of the film remains intact,” the statement said.

“We want audiences everywhere in the world to see and enjoy this film, and it’s important to us that Chinese audiences have the opportunity to experience it as well, even with these minor edits.”

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The author of the book on which the latest Fantastic Beasts film is based, J.K Rowling revealed the existence of a previous gay relationship between the two characters as far back as 2007.

Chinese censors have cracked down on expressions of gender and sexuality they see as not fitting traditional Chinese values such as LGBT relationships and men deemed to be “effeminate”.

In February censors deleted scenes of men kissing, references to a lesbian character and orgasms in US sitcom Friends, sparking outrage among the popular show’s large mainland audience.

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore bombed at the Chinese box office following its release over the weekend, taking just 18.89 million yuan (US$2.97 million) against an estimated production budget of US$200 million.

The poor box office showing of the new Fantastic Beasts film is in sharp contrast to the previous two instalments in the franchise; Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them took 74.84 million yuan (US$11.7 million) in 2016 in its opening days, while Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald took 80.41 million yuan (US$12.6 million) in 2018.

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Although some have pointed to recent Covid-19 outbreaks as being a deterrent to some cinemagoers, many Chinese viewers complained about a lack of Chinese mythological creatures, despite the fact there is already one included, the mythical Qilin, and said the film was less entertaining than the previous films.

“There are not as many beasts in there this time and only one Chinese creature, wrote one user on Weibo.

“The movie is too Western and not as good as the first two, I won’t recommend,” complained another user.