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When the Censorship Board plays moral guardian

The media, or more specifically the entertainment media, plays a very important role beyond serving as a form of escapism and enjoyment. It serves as a reflection of society and, at times, becomes a tool to influence society as well.

In the past week or so, the local media has been blanketed with reports of Disney’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’ being “banned”. Well, technically it was never banned. Its release was delayed, then cuts were ordered by the Censorship Board, and Disney decided to pull it out from Malaysia.

The reason for this debacle is because there is an apparently gay character in the film by the name of Le Fou who sings a song that is suggestively gay and that he even lifts up his shirt and reveals a love bite on his body. I have not seen the film so I cannot confirm the existence of this scene.

But at the time of writing, it has been reported that the film will indeed be screened in cinemas here in Malaysia without any cuts on March 30. This has been confirmed by the country’s two largest local cinema chains, TGV and Golden Screen Cinemas.

It’s funny to see how cabinet ministers who come from the same ruling party have totally opposing views to how the Censorship Board responded to the film. It is, in fact, their party that put in place the people and the system that administers the Censorship Board.

Tourism and Culture Minister Nazri Abdul Aziz was very vocal against the Censorship Board playing moral police by seeking to ban and then censor ‘Beauty and the Beast’. He mentioned that homosexuals have been around way before the film was made.

However, Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan Mohamed said that the government should stand firm on its decision to have the apparent gay scene cut from the film. According to him, if Disney would not accept the decision, then the film should not be screened locally.

Nur Jazlan told the news media that the Malaysian government will not allow any film containing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender elements to be screened in the country because it could influence Malaysians.

And now that the Censorship Board has made a U-turn and is allowing ‘Beauty and the Beast’ to be screened in the cinemas without cuts (but with a PG13 rating), he feels that the government is succumbing to foreign commercial interests.

But back to my point as to the role the entertainment media plays in society. Like I said, it is not merely one that serves just escapism and enjoyment. It has a much more significant role that many people tend to overlook...

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