China censors strike again: Taiwanese and Japanese flags cut from new Top Gun film

Tom Cruise gets new flight jacket patch courtesy of Tencent Pictures

Screen shots: Top Gun (1986, above) and Top Gun 2 (2020, below) (Paramount Pictures)

Screen shots: Top Gun (1986, above) and Top Gun 2 (2020, below) (Paramount Pictures)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – With the surprise release of a Top Gun 2 trailer at the San Diego Comic-Con on July 19, another example of China’s campaign to suppress Taiwan also made an unexpected appearance.

Some netizens watching the trailer for the Top Gun sequel, which is to be released 35 years after the original, noticed a seemingly minor difference between the leather pilot’s jacket from the original film and the one worn by Tom Cruise’s character Pete Mitchell in the sequel.

On the back of the jacket, the large navy patch that originally included the Japanese and Taiwanese flags has been curiously edited to remove them. Twitter user Mark McKinnon brought the Twitter-sphere’s attention to the change.

Upon investigation, the reason for the change was easily deduced when netizens discovered that China’s Tencent pictures is one of the primary production partners, having made a deal with Paramount in 2018 to collaborate on the film.

The business relationship with the Chinese company no doubt prompted the change in order to ensure the film could be screened in China upon its release. Chinese censors are incredibly sensitive out of concern that certain images or words may hurt the feelings of the Chinese people.

The Taiwanese flag is one such image, and it appears that in the case of the new Top Gun film, the producers were instructed by Tencent Pictures to the remove the Japanese flag as well. No doubt this was also done to protect the sensibilities of easily offended Chinese audiences.

Original patch

The original patch included in the 1986 Top Gun includes flags for the United States, the United Nations, Japan, and Taiwan. It is a reference to the USS Galveston (CLG-3), a U.S. Navy guided missile cruiser that joined the U.S. Pacific fleet in August 1962 and operated in the waters of Northeast Asia around Japan, Taiwan, and Okinawa from fall 1963 through spring of 1964.

In addition to replacing the Japanese and Taiwanese flags, “USS Galveston” and “Far East Cruise 63-4” have also been changed to “United States Navy” and “Indian Ocean Cruise 85-86." Netizens have shared their thoughts on the patch’s changes, with many calling the move by Tencent “petty” and “pathetic.”

One Redditor in a Taiwan forum correctly noted “Streisand effect incoming,” suggesting that China’s own efforts to minimize the influence and presence of Taiwan will acheive the reverse of the desired effect by inadvertently drawing more attention to the issue because of their own efforts to censor material. Curiously, the film’s marketing team even opted to include the altered jacket patch on the official film poster released with the trailer.

In addition to the back patch, military and cinema enthusiasts have also noticed several other inconsistencies shown in the Top Gun 2 trailer. The film has a planned release date of June 26, 2020.