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Modern-day censorship: A new ending to Fight Club in China

The cult classic Fight Club has just undergone a surprising change, to the chagrin of many viewers: a drastically altered new ending, which was recently uploaded by Chinese streaming site Tencent Video. The original ending in David Fincher’s film sees the Narrator kill off his alter-ego, Tyler Durden, who transpires to be a psychological projection, before watching bank buildings and other skyscrapers explode in a dramatic bang of anti-capitalist, anti-consumerist sentiment. However, in the re-edited version, the screen goes black before either of these scenes, and a coda appears, which states: “Through the clue provided by Tyler, the police rapidly figured out the whole plan and arrested all criminals, successfully preventing the bomb from exploding. After the trial, Tyler was sent to [a] lunatic asylum receiving psychological treatment. He was discharged from the hospital in 2012.” This dramatic shift in the ending, which sees the authorities win and also validates Durden’s presence as a real human being, thereby eliminating a crucial aspect of the plot from existence, has enraged viewers. One person commented on Douban, a film review site, that “No one wants to pay money to watch a classic that has been so ruined to such an extent,” as cited by CNN Business. A Twitter user said “I am Jack’s complete lack of surprise”, while another commented: “The first rule of Fight Club in China? Don’t mention the original ending. The second rule of Fight Club in China? Change it so the police win”.

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There have been many cases of film censorship in China, removing anarchist messages and themes from films in order to promote societal values and perhaps in the presupposition of any threat caused by such messages. Fight Club’s revised ending is only one example of this; Game of Thrones, too, as a series heavily based on sex and violence, was apparently so altered that it had become a “medieval European castle documentary” by the time it was uploaded onto Tencent Video, as one viewer commented. Similarly, with regard to the film Bohemian Rhapsody, any mention of Freddie Mercury’s homosexuality was removed before its release in China, such as scenes of a sexual nature and even the word “gay”. Perhaps the revisions made to Fight Club can be put down to a recent campaign announced by the Cyberspace Administration of China, enacted to “effectively safeguard the vital interests of the broad masses of the people”. Regardless, there have been similar cases of censorship all over the world. In an interview with TMZ, Chuck Palahniuk, the author of Fight Club, commented that “What I find really interesting is that my books are heavily banned throughout the US. The Texas prison system refuses to carry my books in their libraries. A lot of public schools and most private schools refuse to carry my books. But it’s only an issue once China changes the end of a movie? I’ve been putting up with book-banning for a long time.” Perhaps, in light of this, we should be looking at the reasons for censorship; is it simply a case of removing sex and violence from screens, or is the focus more on maintaining the status quo, and subverting any radical messages, particularly those based on consumerism and capitalism?

Image courtesy of Sagan Luna via Flickr