Rewrite club: Chinese censors give American movies new endings


(NewsNation Now) — Alternate endings to American movies are nothing new in China. But that type of censorship is getting new attention now that “Fight Club” has hit streaming services.

What happens at the end of “Fight Club” does not happen at the end of the version of the movie seen in China.

American audiences got to experience a truly explosive ending back when the movie was released in 1999. More than two decades later, as the cult classic is now streaming in China, that’s simply not the case.

Instead of explosions, the ending is a plain slate of text about the main character that reads, in part:

“Through the clue provided by Tyler, the police rapidly figured out the whole plan and arrested all criminals, successfully preventing the bomb from exploding.”

In short, no bad guys win because of authority.

“It is a complete perversion of the original intended story for the actors, everyone involved in the movie,” Manori Ravindran, international editor for Variety, said. “In China, what’s fair is simply not the same as what’s fair in North America. In Hollywood, it’s a completely different playing field.”

Industry experts say there is a lot of give-and-take since China is such a lucrative market, but the edit to “Fight Club” is especially glaring.

The author of “Fight Club” is more amused than angry.

“I think it’s kind of absurdly funny, but nothing really alarming,” Chuck Palahniuk said. Hollywood had already changed the ending of his original book anyway.

“So, in effect, what China has done, in their single card scroll at the end, they have changed the ending of the movie back more toward what it was in the book, but for their own motives,” Palahniuk said.

Propaganda and censorship are a given in communist China, where the tech-savvy are quick to point out differences in Western productions.

The alternate ending to “Fight Club” has become alternate entertainment.

“Fan fiction is basically taking intellectual property and altering it and spinning it in different ways. And in a way, that’s kind of the highest compliment,” Palahniuk said.

“Maybe there’s some comedic value as well, in terms of people coming to it with a fresh pair of eyes and watching through for the alternative ending, the China ending of ‘Fight Club,’” Ravindran said.

Over the years, many other American movies have also been altered in order to get past Chinese censors for distribution, which is exactly why demand remains high in China for pirated copies of foreign movies.

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