Kiley Crossland | WORLD News Service Disney’s decision to include an “exclusively gay moment” in its new film Beauty and the Beast continues to cause an uproar, most notably overseas.
On March 14, Disney decided to pull the film from Malaysia after the country’s censorship board approved a version of the film with a pro-gay scene cut. Rather than agree to the edit, Disney yanked the film.
“The film has not been and will not be cut for Malaysia,” Disney said in a statement.
The controversial scenes center on the character of Le Fou, Gaston’s sidekick, who apparently has a crush on his master, briefly sits in his lap, and has a split-second ballroom dance with another man.
Malaysian officials maintained they were not preventing the film’s release.
“It is in our guidelines that we don’t allow LGBT activity in movies in Malaysia,” Abdul Halim Abdul Hamid, chairman of Malaysia’s censorship board, told The New York Times. “[Disney executives] are the ones not allowing the movie to be shown. We approved it with a minor cut.”
Abdul Halim said the board commonly cuts scenes from movies before releasing them in the Muslim majority country.
“Malaysia is looking forward to the film,” he said, noting Disney could appeal the decision but had yet to submit a request. “The parents are looking forward to bringing the children. Even I, myself, look forward to bringing my grandchildren.”
Sodomy is illegal in Malaysia, a country of 30 million people where only 9 percent believe homosexuality should be accepted in society, according to a 2013 Pew survey.
“If they want to screen it here, they have to comply,” Abdul Halim said.
Disney is seeing backlash from other southeast Asian nations, too. Indonesia will screen the film without cuts but only for those ages 13 and older. Singapore gave the film a PG rating but advised parents to accompany their children.
The National Council of Churches Singapore (NCCS) called the “gay moment” inclusion “totally unnecessary” and urged parents to be careful.
“Some Christian leaders here are deeply concerned about the LGBT representation in this new Disney movie,” NCCS said in a letter to pastors and church leaders. “They see this as an attempt to influence young children and socialize them at an early age into thinking that the homosexual lifestyle is normal.”
The Russian Culture Ministry approved the film despite protests, but gave it an “adults-only” rating, restricting it to viewers 16 and older. In 2013, Russia passed a federal ban on “gay propaganda” to minors. The film rating decision came days after Russian lawmaker Vitaly Milonov called the film an “overt and shameless propaganda of sin and sexual perversion under the guise of a fairy tale.”
In the United States, some pro-family groups are calling for a boycott, while others are encouraging parents to be discerning. An online letter by the American Family Association promising to boycott the movie and urging others to do so has over 50,000 signatures.
Other voices are asking why parents are so surprised that “a production company without a Christian worldview” promotes a message that is increasingly normalized in society.
“What’s surprising to me is the idea that now Christian parents are saying they won’t blindly take their kids to see Beauty and the Beast,” wrote Jasmine Holmes on the Desiring God website. “Now they realize they can’t implicitly trust a secular company not to market their Christian worldview in their movies. … Should this really seem so new to us?”