HAP­PILY EVER AF­TER?

Dis­ney’s threat to pull out from screen­ing tan­ta­mount to dar­ing our au­thor­i­ties

New Straits Times - - Opinion - zain­ulisa@gmail.com The writer, a for­mer NSTP group manag­ing editor, is now a so­cial me­dia ob­server

AT the end of the day, we have a com­pro­mise. Walt Dis­ney did not get all it wanted, and our au­thor­i­ties man­aged to get their point across. Beauty and the Beast will be shown with­out any cuts, but will be re­stricted to those aged 13 and above.

So, who blinked? I would say both sides had to make some con­ces­sions, and both got their points across. Walt Dis­ney is will­ing to sac­ri­fice a big por­tion of its tar­get au­di­ence, those un­der 13 if the movie the­atres and par­ents en­force their rat­ings, and the cen­sor­ship board agrees to let it pass with­out any cuts.

Some had, be­fore this, de­scribed the de­ci­sion by Walt Dis­ney to pull the Beauty and the Beast movie here rather than cut a scene out as yet an­other em­bar­rass­ment to the coun­try.

What will peo­ple think of us? We will be the laugh­ing stock of the world. No, we will not, the United States voted Don­ald Trump as pres­i­dent. Now that, and his daily tweets, pro­vides real laugh. Ev­ery­thing else pales in com­par­i­son.

Se­ri­ously, folks, what we have, in essence, is a big stu­dio flex­ing its mus­cle at a rel­a­tively small market, with gen­der pol­i­tics thrown into the mix, via, to quote the di­rec­tor, “... a nice, ex­clu­sively gay mo­ment in a Dis­ney movie”.

To be clear the movie was never banned. It’s just that Dis­ney did not want the movie to be cut, as re­quired by the cen­sor­ship board, per­haps, in the name of artis­tic in­tegrity.

Now, this is where the whole thing had both­ered me be­fore yes­ter­day’s de­vel­op­ment. Movies get cen­sored or rated all over the world. Peo­ple have their own sen­si­tiv­i­ties whether they are re­li­gious, sex­ual, vi­o­lence, or ide­o­log­i­cal. Some movies could be deemed of­fen­sive to a group of peo­ple, while they are per­fectly all right to oth­ers.

Even in the US, while there is gen­er­ally no cen­sor­ship laws, movies are rated based on th­ese is­sues and movie houses are obliged to fol­low. Film dis­trib­u­tors would nor­mally be aware of cer­tain is­sues that are sen­si­tive in some coun­tries, but per­haps not to oth­ers. Of­ten a com­pro­mise, a snip here or a snip there, of sorts, are reached be­tween them and the re­spec­tive au­thor­i­ties for the movies to be shown.

Nor­mally, a scene or two that is cru­cial to the whole movie could be ar­gued for in­clu­sion, while gra­tu­itous scenes of vi­o­lence or sex could be re­moved with­out the movie be­ing largely af­fected.

For all my life, Beauty and the Beast is a fairy tale, and would largely in­ter­est lit­tle girls. By the age of nine or 10, they would all out­live the fan­tasy world and move on to teen idols, per­haps.

To be fair, I have not seen the movie, thus I am not sure if the re­moval of the scene in ques­tion would af­fect it. Nev­er­the­less, from what I know of it, af­ter view­ing the an­i­mated ver­sion for per­haps the thou­sandth time when my daugh­ter was small, I don’t think it will.

Even in the United States, while there is gen­er­ally no cen­sor­ship laws, movies are rated based on th­ese is­sues and movie houses are obliged to fol­low.

If it is not es­sen­tial to the plot, why then in­sist that the scene in ques­tion can­not be cut? One could not be faulted to ask whether there is an agenda be­ing pro­moted here. Is there an at­tempt to get us to ac­cept all man­ners of how peo­ple live their lives?

By all means, do so, but surely not in a movie most of us as­so­ciate to be a lit­tle girl’s fan­tasy? I know there are peo­ple who don’t mind, and I know those who do, too, hav­ing their kids as tar­get for sex­ual pol­i­tics mes­sag­ing. The big­ger ques­tion for me is the mus­cle flex­ing, for lack of a bet­ter phrase, by Dis­ney. Whether one agrees with the de­ci­sion or not, the ear­lier de­ci­sion to pull out from the screen­ing was tan­ta­mount to chal­leng­ing our au­thor­i­ties, by a for­eign party, no less.

It will prob­a­bly get a few mil­lions of ring­git here and there from the Malaysian box of­fice re­ceipt, which is a small change when com­pared with the other mar­kets.

For in­stance, the big­gest market out­side of the US, is China, con­tribut­ing to more than US$2 bil­lion (RM8.9 bil­lion) in sales. Hol­ly­wood has been bend­ing over back­wards to meet the re­quire­ment of the Chi­nese au­thor­i­ties. Movies have been re-edited, ti­tles changed, scenes cut, etc., in or­der to be shown there. The sto­ries of China’s cen­sor­ship is rather leg­endary, and they do not bode well for artis­tic in­tegrity. They in­clude re­mov­ing a scene showing clothes hang­ing on a line with the Shang­hai sky­line in the back­ground, as the au­thor­i­ties felt that it did not show the city in a good light. It also re­moved a scene that had some­one say­ing a virus orig­i­nat­ing from China was the cause of the prob­lem for the zombie movie World War Z.

Should money or artis­tic in­tegrity reign? I tend to think it is the for­mer that gov­erns the Hol­ly­wood stu­dios, but if one could ex­er­cise some of the lat­ter, es­pe­cially at a small harm­less market, then it would be great, too. In the end though, the movie will be shown and we will get to see what the big deal is all about. One is also tempted to say, “... and they live hap­pily, ever af­ter.”

AFP PIC

‘Beauty and the Beast’ will be shown with­out any cuts, but will be re­stricted to those aged 13 and above.

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