A producer of the Pixar film “Lightyear” has weighed in on the film’s censorship in several countries by saying changes would not be made to accommodate “backward” beliefs.
The ‘Toy Story’ spin-off, which has sparked controversy in many Muslim-majority countries over its depiction of a lesbian wedding and kiss, has so far been banned from airing in 13 countries. .
The countries are: Bahrain, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria and United Arab Emirates.
“We were warned that this would be a likely outcome,” American producer Galyn Susman told AFP.
“But we weren’t going to change the movie we wanted to make just because of some countries with – for lack of a better term – backward beliefs,” she added.
Susman adds his voice to those of the film’s cast who earlier this week expressed disappointment at the film’s censorship due to LGBT+ content.
“It’s frustrating,” said Chris Evans, who plays lead character Buzz Lightyear. “It feels good to be part of something that’s making social progress, but it’s with that sliver of bittersweet frustration that at the same time there are still places that haven’t caught up.”
What’s the controversy over ‘Lightyear’?
The Pixar movie – the latest in the nearly three-decade “Toy Story” franchise – features a character called Alisha, a lesbian ranger voiced by actor Uzo Aduba.
The scene in question shows her starting a family with her partner and sharing a kiss in greeting.
“I feel like it’s terrible, but at the same time I feel like we’re going to get through it,” said actor Keke Palmer, who plays Izzy Hawthorne.
“I have a lot of faith and I think storytelling and filmmaking…not to say before its time, but it’s on the edge of things like that.
“I just feel like, you know what? It’s like that. I’m glad he’s where he is and I know that in the future it will be in those places too.”
Disney initially attempted to remove the scene but was forced to reinstate it after an open letter from Pixar employees who objected to the edits.
The letter also raised dissatisfaction with other controversies, including CEO Bob Chapek’s response to the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill in Florida, the home state of the Walt Disney World Resort.
Are movies censored in the Middle East?
The scandal is the latest headache for Hollywood executives trying to balance access to an $800 million market in the Middle East with employees speaking out for social justice.
It’s been reported that Disney didn’t even submit ‘Lightyear’ to censors in Saudi Arabia after ‘Doctor Strange and the Multiverse’, ‘Eternals’ and ‘West Side Story’ were all blocked due to LGBT+ content.
The film is also banned from release in the Southeast Asian country of Malaysia. Malaysia’s censorship body, called LPF, asked Disney for edits before the ban.
The LPF has already banned “Rocketman”, the biopic of Elton John with Taron Egerton and “Fantastic Beasts: Dumbledore’s Secrets”, more LGBT+ scenarios.
Does social media cause censorship?
Disney had hoped “Lightyear” would be released in the United Arab Emirates where censorship laws have been relaxed. However, due to an outcry on social media over the film’s content “offending Islam”, the censor withdrew the broadcast authorization.
The balance between lawmakers and citizens on social media has caused headaches for streaming and movie studios.
In Turkey, dismay and anger greeted the ‘satanic and pagan’ costumes featured on ‘The Masked Singer’ reality show in the country, leading President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to to intervene and requiring all television to reflect “Turkish family values”.
Which other countries censor LGBT+ media?
‘Lightyear’ is just the latest controversy surrounding international censorship and is set against a complex geopolitical context and questions about national values.
In 2020, Netflix was forced to cancel its Turkish original “If Only” after pressure from the Turkish government to remove a gay character.
Meanwhile, in 2018, Chinese channel Mango TV was stripped of its Eurovision broadcasting rights after censoring several rainbow flags.