Walt Disney has pulled all screenings of Beauty and the Beast in Malaysia rather than allow the film’s gay content to be cut.
The Malaysian branch of Walt Disney said yesterday that the film, which was due to be shown in cinemas from Wednesday, had been postponed due to an “internal review”.
And the multi-billion-pound animation company has now barred the film from being shown by any cinema in the country after it found out censors had cut the film’s gay scene.
The live-action remake is the first major Disney film to feature an unambiguously gay character, with Gaston’s sidekick LeFou shown dancing with a man near the end of the film.
Because of this, the film was altered by Malaysia’s Film Censorship Board, with board chairman Abdul Halim explaining to AP why it made this decision.
“We have approved [the film], but there is a minor cut involving a gay moment.
“It is only one short scene, but it is inappropriate because many children will be watching this movie.”
It was seemingly fine with a film which involved a woman falling in love with a buffalo-like animal – as long as there were no scenes which even hinted at characters being gay.
Earlier this week, Ewan McGregor, who is in the film as the voice of Lumière, shut down homophobic haters in the best way possible.
Josh Gad, whose character Le Fou struggles with his sexuality throughout the film, said it was a shame the twist had been revealed, adding: “I hope that it’s a surprise to audiences to some extent.”
But Emma Watson, who plays Belle in the film, said the “subtle” portrayal of Le Fou was “fun”, and added extra dimensions to the character.
“It’s always like, does he idolise Gaston? Is he in love with Gaston? What’s the relationship there? And I think it’s incredibly subtle, to be perfectly honest.”
Disney does not agree with the film censorship board’s stance. A representative for the company told Bloomberg: “The film has not been and will not be cut for Malaysia.”
Homosexuality is illegal in Malaysia, with those found guilty of homosexual offences facing up to 20 years in prison.
All gay characters shown in films in Malaysia must die or repent, often ‘becoming straight’ by the end of the film.
As recently as 2015, current Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak compared the LGBT community to Islamic State, saying both were enemies of Islam.
Last year, five Disney films ranked in Malaysia’s top 20 box office draws, grossing more than $21 million in the country.
The film has caused controversy in the US as well, with one drive-in cinema in Alabama refusing to show the film – despite having also (accidentally) scheduled a film about drag queens in its upcoming screenings.Russia has banned anyone under 16 from seeing the film because of its gay moment.
The furore began when director Bill Condon told Attitude Magazine that the character LeFou, Gaston’s manservant, has confusing feelings about the major character in the new film.
Some, however, believe that Le Fou was gay in the original film.
It’s not the first time Disney has featured a gay moment
Disney cartoon Star vs. the Forces of Evil featured the subtle moment in an episode this week as part of its third season.
In the episode, main character Star is left lovesick at a concert when her best friend Marco shares a dance and kiss with his crush Jackie instead of her.
The moment is captured in a musical number, ‘Just Friends’, in which Star is suddenly surrounded by couples during a slow song.
A number of the couples are shown enjoying a quick peck, including at least one same-sex couple who are quietly featured for a split-second.
Though the scene proved controversial with the show’s teenage adult fans, it was more because they wanted Star and Marco to get together, with few of them even noticing the apparent Disney first.
One YouTube commenter wrote: “Everyone is arguing about Starco and Jacko, but I’m happy about the gay couples”.
Another added: “Wow they showed a gay couple, looks like Disney is opening up :)”
The moment was so subtle that it even escaped the notice of America’s puritanical self-appointed TV censors, One Million Moms, but we’ll be sure to update this article with their hysterical condemnation once they realise.
The Disney Channel allegedly maintained an unofficial ban on LGBT issues in the past – but the policy appeared to be relaxed in 2014 when a gay couple featured in kids’ sitcom ‘Good Luck Charlie’.
Two recent Disney films, Zootopia and Frozen, have featured characters that appear to be same-sex couples, though it’s not explicitly confirmed in either case.
However, the company is definitely softening its stance.
An aspiring animator recently created his own beautiful Disney-style fairytale featuring a lesbian princess… and maybe one day we’ll see the real thing.