Malaysia backs down on 'Beauty and the Beast' ban over ‘gay scene’

Women pass by the billboard for the film 'Beauty and the Beast' in Subang, Malaysia, 22 March 2017. Source: AAP/EPA

The Malaysian Film Censorship Board has backed down from a ban of Disney’s 'Beauty and the Beast' over a ‘gay scene’, after public backlash in the country.

The inclusion of a gay character in the live-action remake of the animated classic kid’s film, has led to bans in Kuwait and a drive-in cinema in Alabama. 

In Russia the film has been given an ‘adults only’ rating.

The Malaysian Film Censorship Board earlier this month delayed the release of the film, and asked Disney to edit out a ‘gay scene’.

In the film the supporting character LeFou is infatuated by the lead Gaston. The ‘gay scene’ is an apparent reference to a roughly three-second shot in the final ballroom scene where LeFou dances with a man.

Chairman of the Malaysian Film Censorship Board Abdul Halim Abdul Hamid said a scene in the film was "inappropriate because many children will be watching this movie".

“Malaysia does not recognise the LGBT ideology. So we have to be extra-cautious in our work. We have our responsibilities to the country, the people and our constitution. If we let these scenes pass, people will wonder if Malaysia recognises LGBT,” he told the Malaysian New Straits Times newspaper.

However, Disney refused to edit out the scene for the film board, which lead the Board to announce it would be banned.

But after public backlash and criticisms from a senior Malaysian government minister, they backed down and allowed the film screening to go ahead.

'Power Rangers' fans in Malaysia can also breathe a sigh of relief, as a film board review Thursday announced after analysing the film there was “no element of gay, lesbian bisexual and transgender, queer”. 

Josh Gad
Josh Gad stars as LeFou in Disney's live-action adaptation of the studio's animated classic Beauty and the Best (directed by Bill Condon).
Supplied

Homosexuality is technically illegal in the civil and criminal codes in Malaysia, though the laws are rarely enforced.

The situation for LGBTI people in Malaysia varies significantly between urban areas, where people can often live and work with relative freedom, and in the rural areas. 

The Film Censorship Board has previously banned others films that touch on sensitive topics in Malaysia including LGBTI topics, government criticism and communism.

They also regularly request film companies to edit out sex-scenes in films before they can be shown in Malaysia.

Founder of Malaysian LGBTI group Sexuality Merdeka (Freedom of Sexuality) Pang Khee Teik said that he didn’t believe the Malaysian government backing down on the film ban had anything to do with LGBTI rights.

“This (Beauty and the Beast) is not the kind of representation marginalized people need. Aside from being quite banal, it is quite cliché in their depiction of gayness,” he said. “This is not Moonlight”.

Mr Pang ran an LGBTI festival in Malaysia from 2008 until the government shut it down in 2011 and he said pushing for real LGBTI rights in Malaysia was getting more difficult and the arguments had been reduced to things like 'Beauty and the Beast'. 

"This says everything about telling people the market will choose (if people want to see the film or not),” he said.

“I don’t think the market is the place to leave the rights of the vulnerable people”.

“The government should stop telling us we are allowed to be a seen in a film, but not on the news,” he added.

 

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