Malaysian censors have allowed “Beauty and the Beast” to screen in their country uncut, but have slapped a PG13 rating on the film in part because of its highly publicized “gay moment.”
The decision followed days of international attention on the tiny Asian nation’s demand that Disney cut material deemed inappropriate by official censors. But the studio refused to comply, and withdrew the highly anticipated live-action remake shortly before its scheduled release last week while it launched an appeal.
The matter was due to be considered by Malaysia’s Film Appeals Committee on Tuesday. Late in the afternoon in Malaysia, the Golden Screen Cinemas chain, Malaysia’s largest, tweeted that “Beauty and the Beast” would be released unabridged after all, on March 30. But the movie will carry a PG13 rating in the socially conservative country.
“We are delighted Malaysian audiences will get to see the film,” said a Disney spokesperson, who confirmed the March 30 release date.
The decision by Malaysian censors mirrors the one taken in Russia, where officials allowed “Beauty and the Beast” to screen intact but imposed a more restrictive rating. Malaysia’s PG13 classification is less onerous than the 16+ certificate issued in Russia.
The Malaysian censorship board, known as the LPF, had asked Disney to cut a total of 4 minutes, 38 seconds from the film, in three different sections, according to the board’s chairman, Abdul Halim Abdul Hamid. Most of the material the LPF wanted removed was deemed too sexually suggestive or inappropriate, including a fleeting scene at the end of the film that director Bill Condon has described as a sweet “gay moment” involving Le Fou, the villain’s hapless sidekick.
In Muslim-majority Malaysia, sex between men is punishable by law. Gay characters are allowed to appear on film only if they are repentant or portrayed negatively.
Disney refused to make the cuts and referred the LPF’s decision to the Film Appeals Committee, whose decisions are final.
Abdul Hamid blamed Condon for calling attention to the gay scene and, essentially, for causing the problem.
“Maybe if Condon had not mentioned the ‘gay element,’ people wouldn’t be so curious and we could let it go with a potentially minor cut. And this whole thing may not have been an issue,” Abdul Hamid said in an interview published over the weekend. “We at LPF want to preserve films as much as how they are intended by the director, but the moment the ‘gay element’ is thrown into the mix, we had to protect ourselves.”
Whether Disney would have agreed to even a “potentially minor cut” is unclear.