Last Week Tonight deep-dove into the controversial subject of Taiwan, and in the process, John Oliver took aim at John Cena for his May 2021 apology to China. That was a strange pop-culture moment for sure, and Cena’s video-recorded statement carried surreal vibes as he attempted to squash an international incident. His perceived offense occurred when he (during F9 promotion) referred to Taiwan as a country, which greatly upset China. Since the Chinese box office is a vital source of cinematic revenue (and was particularly seen as such in early spring as Hollywood desperately wanted to return to the big screen), the apology isn’t too surprising in retrospect.
Yet it was still an unsettling video to witness. “I must say now, [it’s] very, very, very, very important [that] I love, and respect even more, China and the Chinese people,” Cena declared. All of this happened because China, despite Taiwan being a self-governed (not to mention Democratic) island for seven decades (and counting), refuses to recognize Taiwan as independent. And here’s what John Oliver thinks about Cena’s video (shortly after the 2:00 minute mark above):
“Every part of that is so weird. It’s weird John Cena apologized to China. It’s weird he did it for calling Taiwan a country. And it’s weird to see him do it in pretty decent Mandarin. That’s just too many weird things.”
Fair enough. Oliver later concluded that it’s BS that the commercial and governmental powers that be are allowing this vibe to continue unchecked. He’s definitely not taking Tucker Carlson’s angle in this criticism, though. Carlson’s stance was the usual far-right argument against China because of communism. Oliver’s perspective is that pretty much everyone who is not Taiwanese needs to step out of the argument altogether because “people who are not Taiwanese making decisions for Taiwan is a bit f*cking played out, historically.”
Also, Oliver would like to point out that Taiwan shouldn’t be treated like a “poker chip” any longer, not by any political party or by Hollywood. Nor should people feel as though it’s “some sort of island-sized Viagra to rejuvenate the Chinese nation.” Rather, Oliver argues that the 23 million people of Taiwan have “built a free, Democratic society and very much deserve the right to decide their own future in any way that they deem fit.” To be continued, no doubt.