Like almost every other parent of a child or pre-teen in America, I’m hoping to take the kiddo to “Beauty and the Beast” this weekend at some nearby theater. The Disney Channel, to which my daughter is glued every afternoon, advertises the movie during nearly every ad break, so there are probably few Americans under 13 who don’t know about its release.
Of course there’s been blowback about the “gay moment” in B&B, which apparently comes rather late in the film (after a few hints early on). So, we’ll see if my almost 12-year-old picks up anything different in that I’ve not breathed a word to her about the issue.
Meanwhile, we’ll see if I pick up anything. There were a few things said about a same-sex couple in “Finding Dory,” but they were only on for a few nanoseconds and you had to be looking for it. Also I’m hoping this PG-rated movie stays PG. I'm not looking forward to it for other reasons. Disney has a way of overloading a simple fairy tale and I've been hearing that it's overblown and overdone.
Some folks overseas have an even different read on the movie, according to the Los Angeles Times, which ran this piece:
When Disney's live-action "Beauty and the Beast" debuts worldwide Thursday, Malaysia will no longer be among the invited guests.
The Associated Press reported Tuesday that the company had shelved its plans for Malaysian release after film censors there approved the film after cutting out its so-called "gay moment."
According to the chairman of the Film Censorship Board in Malaysia, Abdul Halim Abdul Hamid, scenes promoting homosexuality are banned in the country.
"We have approved it, 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," Abdul Hamid told the Associated Press.
This is confusing. The film board censored the film to match up with local sensitivities, then banned it nonetheless? Odd. Why is this happening?
Up to this point, the story is a rewrite of an earlier Associated Press release. Then:
The censorship board does allow for the depiction of homosexual characters onscreen, but only if they are shown in a negative light or repent for their actions.
In Malaysia, same-sex sexual activity is illegal and carries a punishment of whipping and up to 20 years in prison.
The link in the last paragraph leads to a Huffington Post story that does a better job of explaining why Malaysians feel this way. Sharia (Islamic) law, it says, governs the country’s state courts.
It's not hard to add this small , but essential detail. This USA Today story at least states that Malaysia is “mainly Muslim” and that sodomy is punished by a 20-year prison sentence and whipping in Malaysia. It only takes one internet search to discern Islamic attitudes towards homosexuality and it would have taken the Times one sentence to have pointed this out.
The AP story on which the Times piece is based on has a religion ghost as well; “ghost” being the religion angle to the story that got left out (in GetReligion lingo).
One wonders about the omission. Were both AP and the Times eporters truly ignorant of Malaysia’s Islamic heritage? Do any of them realize that the crescent on the Malaysian flag represents the country’s official religion? And that Malaysia has been more Islamicized by the year?
I've also heard that Kazakhstan, my daughter's birthplace and a Muslim-majority country, is also not allowing the film. I could only find one poorly translated article saying this, but a Kazakh friend of mine confirms it's not being shown for reasons similar to that of Malaysia.
It is not hard to ask such questions. Reporters only need to ask the "why" ones more often. For some reason, journalists tend to drop that "why" component in the old "who, what, when, where, why and how" news formula, if the religion in question is something other than a controversial form of Christianity.