Disney won't censor Beauty and the Beast gay scenes for Malaysia
The live-action Beauty and the Beast remake will hit theaters around the world in its intended form, as true as it can be.
Despite Malaysia's conservative social and political views regarding homosexuality, EW has confirmed Disney will not cut the film for its planned release in the majority-Muslim nation, and that scenes featuring the studio's first openly gay character will remain in the final version of the Bill Condon-directed fantasy.
Early Tuesday, the Associated Press reported that Beauty and the Beast's Malaysian theatrical run had been shelved by Disney after film censors agreed to screen the film without a particular "gay moment."
"We have approved [Beauty and the Beast] but there is a minor cut involving a gay moment," Abdul Halim Abdul Hamid, the Film Censorship Board chairman, told the AP. "It is only one short scene but it is inappropriate because many children will be watching this movie."
BBC Newsadditionally reported that both secular and religious laws currently prohibit homosexuality in the Southeast Asian nation, though depictions of gay people are allowed in media only if the portrayal is negative. Gay people are subject to prison sentences or corporal punishment in the territory, which is governed via constitutional monarchy.
A 2015 study published by Human Right Watch indicates "discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people is pervasive in Malaysia," while specifically citing transgender citizens' struggles with "arbitrary arrest, physical and sexual assault, imprisonment, discriminatory denial of health care and employment, and other abuses."
Josh Gad, the actor behind the gay character in question, recently told PEOPLE the inclusion of LeFou's sexuality stands to teach audiences an important lesson about acceptance.
"Never judging a book by its cover," Gad said, nodding to a "subtle but incredibly effective" scene shared between two men near the film's conclusion. "There is so much fear out there of that which we don't understand, that which we don't know… And you have a character in Gaston who uses his charm offensive to whip other people into a frenzy to go and attack somebody they've never met. Somebody that's different. Somebody that only represents a danger because [Gaston] says that he represents a danger… I think that that theme is as relevant today as it was when Beauty and the Beast was first written 300 years ago. So that's what I hope people take from it."
Earlier this month, the Henagar Drive-In theater in Alabama canceled plans to show the film on its screens over LeFou's sexual orientation, as it is implied that the sidekick to the film's most prominent villain, Gaston (Luke Evans), has a crush on his companion.
"When companies continually force their views on us we need to take a stand," theater owners posted on the venue's Facebook page. "If we can not take our 11-year-old granddaughter and 8-year-old grandson to see a movie we have no business watching it. If I can't sit through a movie with God or Jesus sitting by me then we have no business showing it."
Beauty and the Beast hits theaters nationwide this Friday, March 17.