Disney’s ‘Lightyear’, with a same-sex kiss, faces a backlash in some Muslim countries


Disney’s new movie “Lightyear”, an offshoot of the “Toy Story” franchise, is facing bans or restrictions in parts of Southeast Asia and the Middle East because of a scene featuring a kiss between two women. The animated film will premiere around the world this week.

The United Arab Emirates have banned “Lightyear” from public screenings and Malaysia has asked Disney to cut several scenes from the film before it can be shown in local cinemas, according to officials in the Muslim-majority countries.

In Indonesia, the country with the world’s largest Muslim population, the chairman of the Film Censorship Board told The New York Times on Wednesday that the kissing scene could potentially violate a law banning films that exhibit “deviant sexual behavior.”

“The Film Censorship Board does not want to be dragged into the vortex of debate over pro-LGBT versus anti-LGBT,” said its chairman, Rommy Fibri. “But that kiss scene is sensitive.”

Disney did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

The international backlash against “Lightyear” is another public relations headache for Disney, whose growing willingness to publicly defend LGBTQ people has made it a somewhat unlikely cultural lightning rod in the United States.

Disney has described “Lightyear,” which was created by Pixar Animation Studios and directed by Angus MacLane, as the “definitive origin story” of the character Buzz Lightyear, a space keeper who starred in the 1995 film “Toy Story” and several sequels.

“Lightyear” focuses on the friendship between Buzz (voiced by Chris Evans) and another space keeper, Alisha Hawthorne (Uzo Aduba). Alisha marries a woman and in one scene greets her wife with a kiss.

Disney CEO Bob Chapek came under heavy pressure earlier this year from many of the company’s employees to take a strong stand against anti-LGBTQ legislation being passed by the Florida legislature, home of the Disney World resort, was adopted.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed the bill in late March, and Disney publicly condemned it. The Florida House later voted to revoke Disney World’s special tax designation, a privilege the Orlando theme park had enjoyed for more than half a century.

International backlash against “Lightyear” has generated far less public attention in the United States than Disney’s clash with Mr. DeSantis. But it reminds the company that cultural clashes over children’s content don’t end at the US border.

In the United Arab Emirates, the government’s Media Regulatory Office said on Twitter this week that “Lightyear” was not licensed to show in domestic cinemas because it violated the country’s “media content standards”. The agency has not provided details or responded to a request for comment.

In Malaysia, “Lightyear” can be shown in its current form on Netflix, but the Film Censorship Board has asked Disney to change several scenes, including a “romantic” one, before it can be shown in cinemas, a ministry spokesperson said. . of the Interior.

In Indonesia, Mr. Rommy of the Film Censorship Board that officials there had flagged the kiss scene to Disney and were waiting for the company to send the finished film, with subtitles, for censorship review. “We’re not saying we’re rejecting the film,” he said.

A movie featuring a gay kissing scene probably wouldn’t pass a censorship rating in Indonesia due to a 2019 law banning movies featuring “vulgar sexual activity” or sexual content that is “deviant” or “unreasonable,” Mr Rommy added.

Gay, lesbian and transgender people are openly persecuted all over the Islamic world. In Malaysia, the laws targeting them are rooted in religious courts and banned in the British colonial era for Muslims and non-Muslims alike. In Indonesia, where nearly nine in 10 of the country’s 270 million people are Muslim, some politicians have tried to associate LGBTQ people with immorality, disease and the subversion of Indonesian culture.

Italia Film International, a company which distributes Disney movies in the Middle East and promotes it on its “Lightyear” website, did not respond to requests for comment.

It was not yet clear on Wednesday how the film would fare in other countries around the Middle East and Asia. Film censorship authorities in Saudi Arabia and China, a major market for Hollywood studios, did not respond to requests for comment.

In Singapore, the Infocomm Media Development Authority said in a statement this week that viewers must be 16 years of age or older to view Lightyear. It described the film as the “first commercial children’s animation with overtly gay images,” and said Disney had rejected its proposal to release two versions of the film, including an edited version for younger viewers.

“While it is an excellent animated film set in the American context, Singapore is a diverse society where we have multiple sensitivities and points of view,” Cheryl Ng, chair of the agency’s film consultation panel, said in the statement.

Muktita Suhartono and Liani MK reporting contributed. Li You research contributed.

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