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Censorship in Film: To Infinity & Beyond

This article focuses on the new Disney + Pixar film, Lightyear, and its censorship across the globe.

Background

On June 17, 2022, a new Disney + Pixar film was released, based on the legendary character Buzz Lightyear from the Toy Story animated movie series. Lightyear has been established as a prequel to the series, focusing on a human version of Buzz Lightyear, who acted as the inspiration for the toy. In this film, Buzz embarks on an intergalactic adventure alongside his recruits Izzy, Mo, Darby, and his robotic cat sidekick, Sox.

Figure 1 – Buzz, Mo, Izzy, Darby & Sox

While lovers of the Toy Story series were thrilled for this new chapter, there has been some considerable backlash across the globe due to the inclusion of a scene where two animated characters share an innocent female-on-female kiss.

The Push for Censorship

Lightyear‘s filmmakers have spoken out about the difficult time they had getting this intimate, feel-good moment into the final release of the film. “The couples as they exist – the family as they exist – was always in the film”, according to producer Galyn Susman. “It was just how much affection we could show.”

According to Susman, Disney supported the inclusion of the lesbian relationship – but pushed back on the kiss. As such, the moment was going to be cut.

Don’t Say Gay (The United States)

Soon after, Disney found itself neck-deep in controversy over recent donations made to Florida lawmakers pushing for the state’s Parental Rights in Education law (also known as the “Don’t Say Gay” Bill). This legislation aims to limit classroom discussion surrounding gender and sexual orientation for Kindergarten through the third grade.

Figure 2 – Don’t Say Gay

The situation prompted LGBTQ+ employees of Pixar and their allies to write a statement regarding the choice by Disney executives to cut “nearly every moment of overtly gay affection… regardless of when there was protest from both the creative teams and executive leadership at Pixar.”

In the end, Disney changed its stance and the kiss was included. “We were able to put it back in and we were thrilled,” says Susman. “It’s all part and parcel of showing a wonderful relationship.”

Figure 3 – Hawthorne Family (Lightyear)

Licensing Issues (United Arab Emirates)

In the United Arab Emirates (UAE) the government’s Media Regulatory Office posted on Twitter that the film was not licensed for screenings in domestic cinemas due to violations of the country’s “media content standards.”

While homosexuality is still criminalized in the UAE, the imposed ban on Lightyear is interesting considering the announcement last year that the country would no longer be censoring movies. This change is supposed to be accompanied by a series of reforms meant to modernize the country – including the decriminalization of premarital sex.

Netflix, But No Chill (Malaysia)

In Malaysia, the film can only be viewed in its intended form on Netflix. Unfortunately for non-subscribers, the movie will not be shown in theatres. The Film Censorship Board originally approved the movie under the condition that several scenes and dialogues that it “found to contain elements promoting the LGBT lifestyle which violate key aspects of the Guidelines” were cut or muted.

However, Disney chose not to comply and cancelled the screening – unwilling to compromise on any LGBTQ+ scenes.

Rumour Has It (Indonesia)

Rumours have been circling that Indonesia will join the other nations in banning or censoring the film, but the Film Censorship Board said officials had “flagged the kissing scene” to Disney and were waiting for the company to send a completed version of the film, with subtitles, for censorship review. According to a representative, this doesn’t mean they plan to reject the movie.

The rest of the Gulf countries and the majority of the Muslim world will be unable to access the movie. According to Deadline Hollywood, Lightyear won’t be playing in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, or Egypt.

To learn more about same-sex representation in film, see our article about it here.

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