MGM's Red Dawn remake sparked plenty of controversy even before the film's release just before Thanksgiving last week, mainly for the producers' decision to swap the "bad guy" roles from Chinese to North Korean people. For most viewers, North Korea hardly represents a feasible existential threat of any kind.
Strangely, emotions continue to run high regarding the portrayal of North Korea. In a Times Square theater in the middle of New York, a handful of North Korean sympathizers actually picketed outside the film's screening and later stormed the venue to protest the "complete nonsense" showing inside:
These individuals, who are associated with the World Workers Party, are clearly an extreme side to this dialogue. As a Korean American highly interested in North Korean issues, I question the motives behind this incident.
But this doesn't mean there aren't any other issues, such as the backlash towards the archaic "yellow peril" theme of the movie. A snippet of post-Red Dawn tweets shows how volatile our country's racial atmosphere is even today:
While a movie is just a movie--just as a book is just a book--stories are powerful things that can both inspire as well as stain minds. I think the only valid criticism of using North Koreans as villains (nobody wants to anger Chinese viewers anymore because big projects now depend on that very audience) is that the plot seems to take the easy way of storytelling by reliving the ignorant days of old Hollywood. Remember "classy" movies like Breakfast at Tiffany's, where some white actor depicts an Asian character with astounding amounts of aggressively-racist features, most of which are far from realistic or accurate.
Red Dawn didn't fare too well at the box office. Maybe that's just because the movie itself sucked, but it certainly is a positive sign that old-fashioned racism as a premise is no longer compelling and simply isn't what moviegoers wish to spend their time on any longer.
Video of the NYC protest: