Chollywooding and Pandering: The Present and Future of Sino-Hollywood Negotiation

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2022

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Abstract

The relationship between China and Hollywood has been a contested subject as a result of complicated historical trajectories. Whether during the Republican era or during the post-1994 period when Hollywood films were reimported to the Chinese market, Hollywood’s “dominance” seems to be the prevailing narrative, a narrative that describes one party’s (Hollywood’s) position of dominance over the other (the Chinese market). From the perspective of marketization, Hollywood and the Chinese film industry are entangled in an intense competition. From the perspective of culturalization, though, such a black and white binary is not entirely applicable, because culture itself is always undergoing continuous negotiation and reformulation. This thesis takes two recent Chinese films—Wolf Warrior II (2017) and The Great Wall (2016)—as my case studies to discuss two of the major forms of representation in the current Sino-Hollywood relationship, namely: “chollywooding” and “pandering.” I seek to highlight the dynamics of cultural negotiation and accommodation occurring between the two parties. Inspired by Prasenjit Duara’s concept of “circulatory history,” I challenge the idea of the “exclusiveness” of Hollywood, or the stationariness of any cultural form. I argue that Wolf Warrior II represents a new cultural space—a “Chollywood cinema” (that is, “Hollywood cinema with Chinese characteristics”) that combines Hollywood filmmaking techniques with Chinese ideology. I show that, while Chollywood cinema is particularly appealing to Chinese audiences, it is viewed much less favorably by overseas viewers. By contrast, The Great Wall employs a strategy of pandering that is less successful in terms of both its domestic and international receptions because it deviates from both “Hollywood” and “Chollywood/Chinese” ideologies. The aim of this thesis is twofold. On the one hand, I demonstrate that, from a cultural standpoint, the Sino-Hollywood relationship must be characterized as one of “negotiation”: both parties are not simply in a competitive relationship but also a collaborative one, whether they wish to be or not. This reveals a dynamic global-local interplay between “chollywooding” and “pandering.” On the other hand, the growing popularity and success of “Chollywood cinema” indicates how “chollywooding” will take on an increasingly significant role in reformulating Sino-Hollywood negotiation in the foreseeable future.

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Chen, Mengyu (2022). Chollywooding and Pandering: The Present and Future of Sino-Hollywood Negotiation. Master's thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/25340.

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