MALAYSIAN censors may have approved the screening of Beauty and the Beast after removing what its creators say is a “gay moment” but according to a media report, Walt Disney decided anyway to shelve the film’s Thursday release in the Muslim-majority country.
The Associated Press, in a report issued amid the uproar, wrote that Disney has yet to explain the matter.
The issue first blew up on Monday when local cinema chains Golden Screen Cinemas (GSC) and TGV cinemas announced refunds for tickets purchased ahead of the screening, saying the release had been postponed indefinitely.
Release of the film, starring Emma Watson and Dan Stevens, was reportedly on hold for “internal review” by authorities.
Later in the day, however, Malaysian Censorship Board (LPF) chairman Datuk Abdul Halim Abdul Hamid told The Star Online “the film has been approved with a P13 parental guidance classification, with a minor cut.”
The authorities had made a minor edit on the film after concerns about a “gay moment.”
Beauty and the Beast director Bill Condon told gay lifestyle magazine Attitude this month the film would feature “a nice, exclusively gay moment in a Disney movie.”
At the time of writing, the GSC website still reads “movie not available” where the synopsis of Beauty and the Beast should be. In its announcement earlier, GSC wrote that the film’s release was postponed by Disney.
An important announcement. pic.twitter.com/pRPZpz2Cj5
— GoldenScreenCinemas (@GSCinemas) March 13, 2017
Homosexual activity is illegal in Muslim-majority Malaysia. The country has in the past banned or censored certain films deemed to hurt Muslim sensitivities, including movies that depicted prophets of Abrahamic faiths, such as the 1998 animated musical Prince of Egypt.
Last year, Malaysians raised a stink on social media after finding the Hollywood remake of old time classic Ben-Hur was edited to remove scenes featuring Jesus Christ. It was revealed later, however, that the edits were made before local censors saw the film.
But Malaysia’s Tourism and Culture Minister Nazri Aziz told Asian Correspondent he found the uproar over Beauty and the Beast to be “ridiculous” and tantamount to “moral policing”.
Nazri said many other themes that might also offend Muslim viewers were allowed by censors.
“Don’t tell me Muslims aren’t sensitive about shooting,” he said.
“In most movies, the storyline includes rape scenes, murder scenes. But that you allow? Those things, like shooting, for example, they are all against the law and yet we allow that. We should be consistent.”
Sooo, Beauty and the beast got banned in Malaysia because there's a gay character. But, there're tons of rape scenes in local movies ??
— ain.🌐 (@baellisima) March 13, 2017
Many Malaysian netizens took to social media to air their annoyance.
Totally disagree with " Beauty and the Beast is banned in Malaysia " 😠😠😠😠😠😠😠😠😠😠😠😠😠😠😠😠😠😠😠😠😠😠😠😠😠
— Joy (@Farah_Danisya) March 13, 2017
Malaysia has so many things to improve on but we choose to look at the petty stupid stuff like banning Beauty and the Beast. How disgusting.
— Priyanka Laxmi (@priyankalaxmii) March 13, 2017
“Homosexuals exist, they’ve been around even without showing the film. I don’t think if you show the film, there will be more homosexuals around,” Nazri said.
“We should grow up. There are many other things we should be more concerned about. Let our people make their own choices.”
In neighbouring Singapore, the Anglican church has issued an “alert” to parents regarding “homosexual content”, signalling the film diverged from Disney’s usual association with “wholesome, mainstream values.”