Even for a few seconds, some decisions are expensive. By capturing a secret kissing scene between two cohabiting women, Disney is making a very political bet – recognition of the LGBTQ+ community. Besides that, by promoting progressive cinema aimed at the general public, the American company based in California has subjected itself to the censorship of certain regimes much less inclined to change mentalities. Such is the case in a dozen countries across the region that have refused to grant an operating license to the latest animated film from Pixar Studios (Pixar Animation Studios). Lebanon, Jordan, Bahrain, Egypt, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Syria, Iraq, United Arab Emirates and the Palestinian Authority: All refused to show Buzz Lightyear in their cinemas. Saudi Arabia would not have even bothered to submit the film for validation in anticipation of near-certain censorship, according to Variety. Malaysia and Indonesia, meanwhile, have announced their intention to do the same if certain scenes are not cut, while Singapore authorities have mandated a minimum age of 16.
Directed by Angus MacLane, the film, which hits theaters worldwide this week, looks back on the “origin story” of the main character of the famous Toy Story saga, which began in 1995. Pixar Studios, a Disney subsidiary, originally removed the scene where Buzz’s boss and best friend Alisha Hawthorne briefly kisses his wife. But after internal protests from employees, management reversed its decision and returned to the scene of the crime. “It was important to us to be able to give that kiss. It’s a touching moment that has a lot to the plot because it makes Buzz realize that unlike his friend, he doesn’t have a loved one or a child,” said the film’s producer, Galyn Susman, in early April.
But if the controversy is resolved on the domestic scene, it’s far from the end of the puzzle. The company, which is one of the world’s largest players in the children’s film industry, must now face the international consequences of its decision. The sanction came primarily from the Arab world and some East Asian countries. A large majority of them continue to punish “unnatural” and/or same-sex relationships, often resorting to censorship by cutting specific scenes or banning an entire film. Other American productions had come under censorship for similar reasons, including Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (Marvel Studios, 2022), West Side Story (20th Century Studios, 2021) or The Eternals (Marvel Studios, 2021).
A “diabolical plan”
Despite the growth of Arab gay communities in recent years, political repression has not abated in some countries. This is particularly true in Egypt, where restrictions on freedoms extend far beyond the cinema industry. Waves of arrests, arbitrary detentions, sometimes accompanied by torture, against the community are still part of everyday life for homosexuals. Egyptian activist Sarah Hegazi, who committed suicide in exile on June 14, 2020 after spending several months in her country’s prisons, remains one of the icons of the homosexual condition in the Arab world. On the occasion of Pride Month, controversy surrounding the promotion of a gay culture has flared up again. In Saudi Arabia, officials at the Ministry of Commerce this week seized hundreds of “rainbow” toys and clothing from stores across the kingdom. “Products that contain symbols and signs that call for deviation and go against common sense,” a Saudi official told al-Ekhbariya broadcaster a few days ago. A few days ago, the Kuwaiti authorities had also responded to a tweet from the American embassy, calling on the American chargé d’affaires to protest against the publication of messages that “support homosexuality”, while stressing “that the laws and rules in must have power in the land”.
But state repression and official censorship are not the only culprits. There is also hostility on the part of the population in view of what is perceived as an attack on morals. After the release of Buzz Lightyear, internet users on social networks called for a boycott of Walt Disney films accused of promoting gay rights. In Egypt, high-profile figures are speaking out against the entertainment giant. “How can we protect our children? started the star presenter Lamis el-Hadidy on the set of the private broadcaster OnTV. “We must not accept this culture that comes from the outside. We have to be aware of what is being presented to us,” the fifty-year-old continues. Statements echoing those of al-Azhar, the country’s highest religious authority, who warned against the promotion of homosexual content through children’s entertainment and invoked “a diabolical and systematic plan aimed at ending the immoral crime of homosexuality in Muslim societies normalize”. In this June 9 statement, the Sunni institution warned of the dangers of a project aimed at “destroying the family’s system of moral and social values, distorting the identity of its members and undermining the stability and security of societies .
Even for a few seconds, some decisions are expensive. By capturing a secret kissing scene between two cohabiting women, Disney is making a very political bet – recognition of the LGBTQ+ community. Apart from the fact that the American company based in California has exposed itself to censorship by promoting progressive cinema aimed at the general public …
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