The appearance of The Epoch Times, a newspaper associated with the anti-CCP Falun Gong religious movement, in Marvel and Disney’s upcoming Doctor Strange In The Multiverse of Madness has sparked outrage in China and reportedly brought the film’s release in the country into question.
The publication’s cameo in the upcoming Benedict Cumberbatch-led sequel was first discovered on April 28th following the exclusive release by IMDB of a clip featuring the eponymous hero battling it out with Gargantos – the MCU’s non-copyrighted name for Shuma-Gorath – on the streets of New York.
As seen at 0:25 in the minute-long clip above, one of The Epoch Times’ signature yellow distribution boxes can be seen sitting on the street next to Dr. Strange as he moves to rescue America Chavez from the interdimensional entity’s clutches.
The same box can be seen fifteen seconds later as Dr. Strange’s Cloak of Levitation hurries Chavez to safety behind the former Sorcerer Supreme.
Though brief, this cameo – likely incidental and completely accidental given Disney’s propensity for doing business with the communist country – not only “made waves on local social media”, but was deemed enough of an insult to prompt China’s state-run news outlet The Global Times run an op-ed declaring, “Insulting China? No, Doctor Strange 2 is shaming US and Hollywood.”
“Anti-China forces outside China who take pleasure in ‘offending’ China, especially the supporters of the Falun Gong cult, are extremely thrilled by the appearance of such Falun Gong ‘nods’ in such a Hollywood blockbuster, proudly stating that ‘Doctor Strange is insulting China,’” wrote the paper from the perspective of an individual by the pseudonym of ‘Frank Bro’.
“However, in my opinion, showing the elements of the cult banned by China 20 years ago and its mouthpiece is not an insult to China. Instead, it is putting the US and Hollywood to shame,” they added.
Founded in the late-90s by current leader Li Hongzhi, Falun Gong defines itself less as a religion as more as a self-proclaimed spiritual movement, promoting a Buddhism-based belief in ascending to higher levels of understanding through such practices as meditation, physical exercise, and the abandonment of various earthly desires.
However, in stark contrast to many such movements, Falun Gong does not ask its practitioners to cut ties with society or the concepts of love and marriage, but rather encourages them to ethically embrace and participate in the world around them.
Despite such amicable practices, the organization has drawn criticism in the past over Hongzhi’s views on homosexuality, which he believes renders someone “no longer” worthy of being “called a human being”.
Hongzhi also teaches that heaven is segregated by race, outright asserting in a 1999 interview that “The yellow people, the white people, and the black people have corresponding races in heaven,” and mixed-race individuals could only enter heaven through his assistance.
Unsurprisingly, not long after its founding, the group drew the ire of the Chinese Communist Party due to its growing size and influence, which the ruling government believed posed a threat to both their powers and their statewide policy of mandatory atheism.
In 1999, the group’s organization and practice was banned in China, prompting a government-backed open season of persecution on Falun Gong that saw a number of human rights abuses committed against its followers, including forced religious conversion, torture, and use as fodder in the state’s organ harvesting operations.
Based in New York and operated by the group, The Epoch Times has been accused in recent years of being a ‘far-right’ news outlet due to such editorial stances as its support of former President Donald Trump, questioning of the 2020 presidential elections, and its parent company’s operation of a YouTube channel featuring pro-Qanon content.
The paper has also drawn accusations of propagating disinformation for covering Trump’s claims that his presidential campaign had been spied on – a claim which has since been vindicated by even the mainstream media – and their early support of the COVID-19 lab leak theory – which has since grown to be the most widely supported origin of the virus.
Though the outrage of China and its citizens has been confirmed, according to Deadline, the same can not currently be said of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ release in China.
As reported by the trade news outlet, “We understand that Doctor Strange 2 has been submitted to the Chinese authorities for review, and that a release has not yet been nixed or approved.”
Disney has not yet offered public comment on this outrage, nor what it means for the Chinese future of Doctor Strange.
What do you make of this outrage against the appearance of The Epoch Times in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness? Let us know your thoughts on social media or in the comments down below!