Even for a few seconds, some choices are expensive. By including a furtive kissing scene between two women living together, Disney is making a very political bet, that of recognizing the LGBTQ+ community. Except that by championing progressive cinema aimed at the general public, the American company based in California has exposed itself to censorship from certain regimes that are much less inclined to change mentalities. This is the case of a dozen countries across the region that have refused to grant an operating visa to the latest animated film from Pixar Studios (Pixar Animation Studios). Lebanon, Jordan, Bahrain, Egypt, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Syria, Iraq, United Arab Emirates as well as the Palestinian Authority: all refused the screening of Buzz Lightyear in their theaters. Saudi Arabia would not even have bothered to submit the film for validation, according to Variety, in anticipation of almost certain censorship. Malaysia and Indonesia have meanwhile expressed their intention to do the same if certain scenes are not cut, while the authorities of Singapore have imposed a minimum age of 16 years.
The film directed by Angus MacLane, which hits theaters this week across the world, looks back on the “origin story” of the main character of the famous saga Toy Story, inaugurated in 1995. Pixar Studios, a Disney subsidiary, originally removed the scene where Buzz’s superior and best friend Alisha Hawthorne briefly kisses his wife. But following internal protests from employees, management reversed its decision and returned to the scene. “Being able to deliver that kiss was important to us. It is a touching moment with great significance in the plot because it allows Buzz to realize that, unlike his friend, he does not have a loved one or a child, “explained the producer in early April. of the film, Galyn Susman.
But if the controversy is resolved on the domestic scene, it is far from being the end of the puzzle. The company, which is one of the biggest players in the children’s film industry worldwide, must now face the international consequences of its choice. The sanction has mainly come from the Arab region and some countries in East Asia. A large majority of them continue to penalize “unnatural” and/or same-sex relationships and frequently resort to censorship by cutting certain scenes or banning an entire film. Other American productions had thus fallen 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 the case in Egypt where the restriction of freedoms goes far beyond the cinema industry. Waves of arrests, arbitrary detentions, sometimes accompanied by torture, against the community are still part of the daily life of homosexuals. Egyptian activist Sarah Hegazi, who committed suicide in exile on June 14, 2020 after spending several months in her country’s jails, continues to be one of the icons of the homosexual condition in the Arab world. On the occasion of the “month of pride”, the controversies about the promotion of a homosexual culture have resurfaced. In Saudi Arabia, Commerce Ministry officials this week seized hundreds of “rainbow” toys and clothes from stores across the kingdom. “Products containing symbols and signs calling for deviance and contradicting common sense,” a Saudi representative told the al-Ekhbariya channel a few days ago. A few days ago, the Kuwaiti authorities had also reacted to a tweet from the American embassy by summoning the American charge d’affaires to protest against the publication of messages “supporting homosexuality”, while stressing “the need to respect the laws and rules in force in the country”.
But state repression and official censorship are not the only culprits. On the side of the populations also, hostility prevails in the face of what is perceived as an attack on morals. On social networks, in the wake of the release of Buzz Lightyear, Internet users are calling for a boycott of Walt Disney films, accused of promoting the rights of homosexuals. In Egypt, high-profile figures are speaking out against the entertainment giant. “How can we protect our children? launched the star presenter Lamis el-Hadidy on the set of the private channel OnTV. “We must not accept this culture that comes from outside. We must become aware of what is presented to us, ”continued the fifty-year-old. Remarks that echo those emanating from al-Azhar, the country’s highest religious authority, who had warned about the promotion of homosexual content through children’s entertainment, evoking “a diabolical and systematic plan aimed at normalizing immoral crime of homosexuality in Muslim societies”. In this statement dated June 9, the Sunni institution warned against the dangers of a project aimed at “destroying the system of moral and social values of the family, distorting the identities of its members and undermining the stability and to the security of societies.
Even for a few seconds, some choices are expensive. By including a furtive kissing scene between two women living together, Disney is making a very political bet, that of recognizing the LGBTQ+ community. Except that by championing progressive cinema aimed at the general public, the American company based in California has exposed itself to censorship…