When people wonder why Hollywood is so reticent about putting LGBT characters in their big releases, the fuss over some minor gay content in Disney’s Beauty & The Beast is good evidence of why studio execs shy away from it. The fear is that there will a backlash from the religious right and various countries around the world either banning the film or making it difficult for people to see. As a result, the worry that it will lower the box office means LGBT characters are still a major rarity in big Hollywood films.
The latest country where Beauty & The Beast is causing a stir is Malaysia, where the censorship board cut the ‘gay moment’ involving the character LeFou, and gave the movie a ‘PG-13’ style rating. “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, chairman of Malaysia’s Film Censorship Board, told the Associated Press
However, the film was still due to be released at the end of this week. Now though, it has disappeared off the schedules.
It appears the decision was made by Disney, which has said the release of the movie in the country is now the subject of ‘internal review’. However, few other details have been released about why the decision was made. Some have suggested that despite the censorship, Disney may have known of plans for protests against the movie, or had even received threats, although it appears that is purely speculation. Gay sex is still illegal in Malaysia and discrimination is pervasive, with one of the lowest levels of acceptance of homosexuality by society in Asia, and in recent years the situation has arguably gotten worse.
Elsewhere, Beauty & The Beast met calls to be banned in Russia and ended up with an adults only rating, while some on the religious right in the US have been protesting the movie over the ‘gay moment’. Even so, it’s still expected that the movie will gross over $200 million worldwide this weekend, once it starts rolling out on Thursday. If the film can still be a big success despite the fuss over a little bit of gayness, it may show nervous Hollywood studio execs that LGBT characters and themes aren’t the kiss of death for big budget movies that they seem to think they are.