Just like any other audience worldwide, I was stunned by the jaw-breaking visual impact how Los Angeles turns to ashes in the hands of Hollywood's disaster genius Roland Emmerich in his $200-million apocalyptic production 2012 released over the weekend.
I also have to admit I was among many Chinese whose self-sense of pride was greatly satisfied by the canny political conspiracy embedded in this American film, especially at this moment when US President Barack Obama is in town.
The plot of the film is simple: As the world nears self-destruction in 2012 as predicted by ancient Mayans, the United States initiates a modern "Noah's Ark" mission joined by major nations including, of course, China.
I have a wild guess that the film's political implications run something like this: the modern world would be a better place using American ideas and "Made-in-China" products.
During my viewing on Saturday, the 400-seat theater broke into a full-house applause when a People's Liberation Army officer saluted to American survivors as they arrived in China. The patriotic passion became even more apparent when the White House Chief-of-Staff, upon the sight of the giant "Arks" in the film, exclaimed that entrusting the Chinese to build them is the wisest decision.
But a lightly more skeptical man sitting next to me commented out loud that the director must have been desperate to flatter the Chinese audience for box office reasons.
A Dalian-based Web user "Eimos" was even sharper when he wrote on the popular portal Sina.com: "The apocalyptic tsunami is a symbol of the financial tsunami. And as in reality, the US wishes China to step up to save the world."
I am not sure whether the idea to note China's historic humanitarian role before a global audience was a Hollywood market strategy or a political hint from Washington, but I am certain this is not self-delusion from Chinese moviegoers.
Perhaps my best approach is to redirect the problem to the director himself, or even to forward it on to President Obama: "Will these two nations really be able to save the world, or is this all just a Hollywood fantasy?"
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(China Daily 11/17/2009 page27)