Marvel's Eternals: Chloe Zhao's Controversial Comments Against China Could Hurt MCU Movie

By Aeron Mer Eclarinal Updated:
Chloe Zhao, Eternals poster

Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is now in full swing on the small screen, with the impressive start of WandaVision leading the way. While much of the focus right now is solely on the Disney+ slate of the franchise, the big screen counterparts are not too far behind despite anticipated delays due to the ongoing pandemic. 

One of the upcoming MCU films that will grace the silver screen is Eternals. Directed by the award-winning Chloe Zhao, the project will introduce a brand-new group of super-powered individuals, but the team's main difference from the Avengers is the fact that they are immortals

Plot details for Eternals are still being kept under wraps, which isn't surprising since the film's marketing hasn't started yet. So far, information about the project has only been revealed from leaked pieces of merchandise and promotional art, and this essentially prompts questions of whether the November release timeline of the film will stick. 

Now, it seems that an unexpected issue has surfaced that could potentially derail the momentum of the film's upcoming debut. 


In a comprehensive report, Deadline took a deep dive into previous comments that were allegedly made by Eternals director Chloe Zhao against China and their potential ramifications towards her film, Eternals

In the wake of the Golden Globes ceremony where Zhao won an award for "Best Director," strong comments made by the director against China were unearthed on social media.

As reported by Deadline, it was revealed that the Beijing-born Zhao described China as “a place where there are lies everywhere” in a 2013 interview with Filmmaker. The outlet has since removed the comment from its story, but it's still available in archive form. 

Meanwhile, another interview of Zhao with Australia's from December 2020 was also dug up, and this was where the director claimed that she was “now” an American. has already issued a correction regarding the matter by saying that it was only a typo, and Zhao actually said that she is “not” an American. 

Despite the corrections, it was bared that the quotes ultimately reached Chinese social media as well as state-backed publications. To add more fuel to the fire, the Chinese website of Deutsche Welle ran a headline that reads, “From the Pride of China to Disgracing China in a Few Short Days.” 

USC professor and China expert Stanley Rosen gave a statement to Deadline about the situation, revealing that this “demonstrates how precarious it is when marketing to China, as with Monster Hunter and that earlier fiasco over a lame joke.”

While it's clear that this caused an uproar from the Chinese community, the professor admitted that there was still support for Zhao despite her comments. 

Rosen's analysis can be seen below: 

“Some have noted that Nomadland is actually critical of a declining U.S. and the evils of a capitalist system, or that Chinese ultra-sensitivities will help ensure that Hollywood will be much less likely to hire Chinese directors for any major films. It’s hard to search for those terms while the [Communist] Party sees where all this is going and decides whether to go ahead with the April release. A bigger issue of course is Eternals, which needs the Chinese market and where Zhao will have to be active in promoting it.” 


With so much to unpack, one thing is certain: this is a complicated situation for Zhao and the release strategy for her work.

In the age of social media, it isn't surprising that comments that were made years ago found their way back into the mainstream. Not much is known about how or why these remarks showed up again, but it's possible that this is happening because of the director's continued collection of film accolades. 

In a way, this issue could have a direct effect on Eternals in terms of the film's box office haul from China. Right now, China appears to be adjusting to normalcy following the COVID-19 pandemic, as evidenced by the recent triumph of Avatar against Avengers: Endgame in the box-office race. 

If that is the case, the marketing of Eternals to China would be crucial to the film's success, and Zhao's comments about the country make it complicated. It's still unknown if the remarks will be a glaring factor towards the box office performance of the film, but Marvel and Zhao should expect to see a response. 

Based on what was reported by Deadline, the corrections that were made from Zhao's comments came directly from the outlets that were involved, and not from the director herself. 

Given that, a statement coming straight from Zhao could potentially ease the uproar, thus paving the way for smooth sailing for the release of Eternals in November. 

- About The Author: Aeron Mer Eclarinal
Aeron is a news/features writer and Content Lead for The Direct who has been working for the site since March 2020. From writing about the inter-connectivity of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to having an extended knowledge about DC TV's Arrowverse, Aeron's expertise has since expanded into the realm of reality TV, K-drama, animated, and live-action shows from Netflix,  Disney+, Prime Video, MGM+, Peacock, Paramount+, and Max. When he isn't writing and watching all things MCU, Aeron is heavily invested with the NBA (go Celtics!) and occasionally watches thrilling matches in the WWE.