According to various trade publications, including Variety, the Walt Disney Company has hired producer and film executive Jessica Kam-Engle to head up their Asian Content. While this might slip by most, we here at Pirates and Princesses have taken note of the hire because of the potential change in strategy it represents.
It’s no secret that Disney’s image has taken a beating in the past few years. Whether it was their treatment of Star Wars, the filming of Mulan near concentration camps, the disparaging of criticism, or any number of other things, Disney has seen better days in the public eye. Taking a look at Star Wars and Lucasfilm YouTube videos, as well as other Disney social media accounts, it’s easy to see that many people have had enough of Disney’s bad behavior. Indeed, one only has to view the reaction to Disney labeling The Muppets as racist in order to grasp just how far they’ve gone astray of moderates in America.
With all that said, much of Disney’s strategy has been to do no harm to their relationship with China. After all, for Disney, the possibility of getting Disney+ into China is a means to a revenue stream unlike any other in the world. If you think Disney has cultural influence and economic clout now, you ain’t seen nothing yet like you’ll see if they get Chinese middle class subscribers.
But that’s why hiring Mrs. Kam-Engle is so eye-opening. Perhaps Disney recognizes they’ve finally gone too far and need to scale back?
An explanation is in order. To understand why this hire is such a reversal in course, you have to recognize how important it is to the Chinese Communist Party in Beijing that the area of Taiwan not be seen as independent in any way. For China, both Hong Kong and Taiwan are wayward metropolises that need to be fully integrated back into the clutches of the mainland. When a nation or company acknowledges Taiwan in any way, it’s a big deal — usually negative for their future opportunities with China proper. And this is something that the CCP tracks; they know when people talk about Taiwan as an independent entity. Many businesses and individuals are even scared to say the word “Taiwan”.
Read this quote by Jessica Kam-Engle and you’ll see why we hope Disney is recognizing they’ve gone too far in the past and need a correction:
“Taiwan has a long history of television and film production, which has cradled a good source of creative professionals. The government has been very progressive in providing incentives to attract local and foreign productions to shoot in Taiwan or use their talents. While it is not a big place, its natural landscapes span from seasides to mountains, rural villages to modern cities, providing very diversified locations.” – Jessica Kam-Engle, then HBO Asian Originals Chief to KFTV
It is our hope that Disney will now create a pattern of hiring and fostering individuals who hold viewpoints that are not completely in line with communist party doctrine. It would be lovely to see Disney hire people in and participate in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and pro-democracy movements. While democracy certainly isn’t perfect, it’s preferable to the ongoing atrocities we see against ethnic minorities in China… and perhaps over long periods of time, democracies and republics are antiseptics to the sorts of bad behavior that come from oligarchical rule.
Pirates & Princesses (PNP) is an independent, opinionated fan-powered news blog that covers Disney and Universal Theme Parks, Themed Entertainment and related Pop Culture from a consumer's point of view. Opinions expressed by our contributors do not necessarily reflect the views of PNP, its editors, affiliates, sponsors or advertisers. PNP is an unofficial news source and has no connection to The Walt Disney Company, NBCUniversal or any other company that we may cover.