Amazon has been facing a lot of backlash recently for its controversial decision to go ahead with a new series for its streaming platform. Titled Expats and based on Janice Y. K. Lee’s novel, the show will revolve around “the vibrant lives of a close-knit expatriate community: where affluence is celebrated, friendships are intense but knowingly temporary, and personal lives, deaths and marriages are played out publicly—then retold with glee.”
Many have found this to be an extremely insensitive project, especially considering the volatile sociopolitical climate in Hong Kong at the moment. Hong Kong is following China’s strict Covid-19 quarantine measures but Nicole Kidman, the star of Expats, managed to skip mandatory isolation and exercise her privilege.
After arriving in Hong Kong on a private jet, Kidman managed to bypass the laws by claiming that she was fulfilling “the purpose of performing designated professional work, taking into account that it is conducive to maintaining the necessary operation and development of Hong Kong’s economy.” Edward Yau, the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, insisted that bankers got the same treatment but people on the internet weren’t placated.
Lawmaker Michael Tien asked, “Even our Olympians from Tokyo Olympics have to quarantine for seven days. Now that you have created a precedent, does that mean that all foreign movie stars will be exempted when they fly to Hong Kong to film movies?”. Many critics, including the famous artist Badiucao, labelled the show as capitalist propaganda meant to whitewash the situation in Hong Kong.
“How insensitive can she be?” exiled Hong Kong MP Ted Hui fumed in a recent interview. “A lot of people have to flee from Hong Kong, and probably won’t be able to go back home. But she can travel freely from Australia to Hong Kong, and continue her work and go shopping as if nothing has happened.”
Both Amazon and Kidman have denied all accusations, with Amazon Studios stating that the project was “wrapped as scheduled” and that Kidman left for Australia before travelling to the UK for different projects.
“As [Hong Kong residents] are imprisoned and exiled, silenced and traumatised by state violence, we get not one but [two] Prime Video series about expats,” journalist Ryan Ho Kilpatrick asked. “This is starting to feel like cruel and unusual punishment. How much more does the city need to suffer before they care about actual [Hong Kong residents’] lives?”.
The release date for the project is not yet known.