Malaysia, a nation with strict censorship laws, has allowed “Beauty and the Beast” and “Power Rangers” to screen without cutting scenes featuring characters who question their sexuality, outlets reported this week.
Disney’s film inspired discussion after director Bill Condon revealed that Gaston’s sidekick, LeFou, played by Josh Gad, would be shown questioning his feelings for his masculine friend. As it turned out, the moment is very subtle, but it still sparked controversy in the Southeast Asian Malaysia, a majority-Muslim nation of 30 million.
After Disney stated in no uncertain terms that it would not allow the film to be censored for Malaysian audiences, the country’s New Straits Times reported Tuesday that “Beauty and the Beast” will be released, uncut, on March 30.
At the box office, the scene hasn’t hurt the film in the slightest ― it’s raked in a hefty $400 million worldwide since its Friday debut.
In the upcoming “Power Rangers,” which opens March 24, another character is shown front-and-center questioning her sexuality. The Yellow Ranger, called Trini, played by Becky G, is suspected of having “boyfriend problems” until it’s revealed the issue may actually be related to a girlfriend, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
As LeFou is being called the first gay character in a Disney movie, Trini is characterized as the first gay character in a superhero film.
After the battle over “Beauty and the Beast,” though, things may not have looked good for “Power Rangers” fans in Malaysia. But that film, too, has been cleared by censors, Variety reported Wednesday, citing a statement from the film’s Malaysian distributor.
Depictions of gay people in Malaysia are only allowed if they show the character repenting or dying. As The Huffington Post previously reported, Malaysia is known for its regressive stance on LGBTQ rights, having condemned homosexuality under both the country’s federal and religious justice systems. Those dole out punishments that may include whipping or up to a 20-year imprisonment.
LGBTQ characters remain woefully underrepresented in most Hollywood film. But the idea that they may not necessarily be erased in theaters abroad ― in the few times they appear on screen ― is an encouraging sign for the gay rights movement everywhere.