In Malaysia there are two legal depictions of gays: repenting for their homosexuality or dying. Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” brief gay narrative may be a watershed LGBTQ moment in Malaysia
This week Malaysia, a Muslim-majority country with religious shariah courts and strict religious censorship laws, has permitted Beauty and the Beast and Power Rangers to screen without cutting any scenes that feature characters questioning their sexuality. (Spoiler alert—the Yellow Ranger is questioning her sexuality.) This could be a major gay watershed moment for the conservative traditional country of more than 30 million people.
“We are pleased to announce that Disney’s Beauty and the Beast has now been approved to be released in Malaysia with no cuts, with a PG13 rating,” Disney said in a statement.
Nur Jazlan Mohamed, the deputy home minister of Malaysia, originally said the government would not allow the film to be screened uncut “because the elements portrayed in the movie could influence us”. And that’s precisely what we hope will happen.
The gay moments in Beauty and the Beast, however fleeting, provides a positive and acceptable narrative for gays that is far from the admissible narratives of gays repenting or dying. Disney was unwavering in its creative decisions. The studio is essentially providing Malaysians another idea of what it is to question one’s sexuality—and we are grateful for that. Young gay Malaysians who see this movie will now see that it is ok to question their sexuality. This small moment may be the seed that plants hope for millions of non-heteronormative Malaysians.
Malaysian censors wished to cut about 4m 38s from the film, including a scene in which LeFou hugs Gaston, according to Abdul Halim Abdul Hamid, chairman of the Malaysian film censorship board. “Malaysia does not recognize the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) 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 recognizes LGBT,” Mr Abdul Halim told the New Straits Times.
The Beauty and the Beast gay narrative has also received backlash in Alabama and Kuwait.
A movie theater in rural northeastern Alabama said that it would not show Disney’s new version of “Beauty and the Beast” because it has a gay character. “We will not compromise on what the Bible teaches,” the Henagar Drive-In said in a Facebook post Thursday night. “You can feel free to come watch wholesome movies without worrying about sex, nudity, homosexuality and foul language.”
It’s unclear if Disney ever intended on allowing the movie to be screened there or if the theater was acting pre-emptively in order to parade their anti-gay Christian religious beliefs. It’s also unclear what the theater means when they say “we will not compromise on what the Bible teaches.” The Henagar Drive-In theater is open on Saturday and the Bible quite literally says that you should be put to death for working on Saturday. But hey, who’s compromising?
Kuwait also banned Beauty and the Beast because of its gay narrative
In Muslim-majority Kuwait, Beauty and the Beast was banned from all cinemas due to its gay narratives portrayed in a positive light. “We were requested to stop the screening and further censor the movie for things that were deemed offensive by the Ministry of Information’s censorship department,” Board member Duaij Al-Khalifa Al-Sabah told the Associated Press.
Disney and Beauty and the Beast director Bill Condon refused to allow the movie to be edited in order to make it palatable for the tastes of anti-gay cultures—whether in Alabama or Malaysia. Bravo, Disney for supporting positive gay narratives in film and not wavering to pressure from anti-gay religious extremists!