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Disney Plays the Brat with Malaysian Censorship Board

Disney Plays the Brat with Malaysian Censorship Board

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In an unprecedented move, Walt Disney has pulled Beauty & the Beast indefinitely from Malaysian cinemas. This came immediately after a decision by the Malaysian censorship board to cut the “exclusively gay moment” between LeFou and Gaston from the movie.

“The film has not been and will not be cut for Malaysia”, Disney said in a statement over email.

Disney has remained silent on its plans for a release date, but from the email statement above, we can speculate that the decision to yank the movie from the cinemas is a direct response to the censorship board’s decision.

Understandably, reactions on the ground have been strong, with many Malaysians questioning Disney’s decision to indefinitely postpone the screening:

A sample of the audience reactions on the Walt Disney Malaysia Facebook page.
The censorship board’s decision to cut the gay scene and Disney’s seemingly childish reaction is interesting as it raises a few issues worth talking about.

First, and perhaps most obviously, it brings to the forefront a question on parental responsibility. Is it your duty to parent your child or the government’s?

No matter where you stand on homosexuality, the censorship board’s decision to cut the gay movie scene effectively shifts parenting responsibility from the parents to the government.

The fact is, we live in a crazy world. From movies to the news, vices are often celebrated and moral values frequently called into question. Censorship is at best a band aid, a means with which to delay the eventual realisation that homosexuality is part and parcel of the world that we live in.

Like it or not, your kid is going to find out that there are gay people and there are straight people. How he/she reacts to this realisation will come down to your guidance as a parent.

So the question for parents is, would you rather your kid live in ignorance or would you use this as an opportunity to guide him/her about homosexuality and how that fits into your family’s value system? At least with a movie, you are able to do so on your own terms.

is this really more important than making the movie accessible to its adoring fan base?

Second, we wonder if this would even be an issue if the director had just shut his mouth in the interview with Attitude magazine? Although it was never explicit in the original movie, LeFou has always been widely acknowledged as a gay character. But when Bill Condon stated in the interview that there would be an “exclusively gay moment”, it turned what should have been an insignificant scene into Disney pushing a “Western liberal agenda”. In other words, this issue has been seriously blown out of proportion.

Finally, and most importantly, Disney’s decision to indefinitely postpone the screening calls into question its priorities as a business. Obviously, Beauty and the Beast is an American movie created by an American movie studio. If they really want to push a certain agenda, they have every right to do so. But is this really more important than making the movie accessible to its adoring fan base? Why is Disney more interested in sending a message about homosexuality than it is in screening the movie to a wide audience?

Of course, we won’t know where Disney stands on these questions until they release an official statement. But until that happens, this stand-off with the Malaysian censorship board seems pretty petty to us.

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