John Gruber at Daring Fireball takes an in-depth look at that New York Times piece by Ben Smith, ‘Apple TV Was Making a Show About Gawker. Then Tim Cook Found Out.‘:
Anyway, Smith’s focus on the Gawker/Scraper story buried the lede on two much more interesting nuggets regarding the rules of Apple TV+ content:
So far, Apple TV+ is the only streaming studio to bluntly explain its corporate red lines to creators — though Disney, with its giant theme park business in China, shares Apple’s allergy to antagonizing China’s leader, Xi Jinping.
Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president for internet software and services, who has been at the company since 1989, has told partners that “the two things we will never do are hard-core nudity and China,” one creative figure who has worked with Apple told me. (BuzzFeed News first reported last year that Mr. Cue had instructed creators to “avoid portraying China in a poor light.”)
This isn’t gossipy — or the least bit surprising — but unlike the Gawker show getting nixed, this “don’t offend China” rule ought to be genuinely scandalous. Ben Thompson beat me to the punch on yesterday’s edition of Dithering, observing that a rule like this about Russia during the Cold War would have blocked the entire James Bond franchise from existing, not to mention just about any lesser spy movies from the era. Or what of Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove? Like the Soviet Union in the decades after WWII, China is not some obscure small player on the world stage, and they systematically do things that deserve to be portrayed “in a poor light”. To take China off the table is to take much of what’s going on geopolitically in the world today off the table.
I get it, of course. I don’t agree with it, artistically or ethically, but I get it: money talks, and China is where Apple assembles most of its products and a big market where it sells them, too. But just because it’s so transparently obvious why Apple would forbid any negative portrayals of China doesn’t make it any less outrageous.
China gets a free pass at Apple because they make our stuff; China gets a free pass in Hollywood because they buy our movies.