Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Beauty and the Beast Hulla ballooo

The social media outburst against Disney's decisions to postpone indefinitely Beauty and the Beast's screenings in Malaysia was unfortunate and unwarranted. I am not here to argue the mechanics behind this decision: why, Disney did what it did, but rather what leads to the controversy in the first place.

I would argue that LPF's insistence that it will only allow the movie to screened without the scene depicting homosexuality really points to the larger issue of how homosexuality is viewed within the context of the Malaysian society. I don't want to argue one way or the other because I don't think my views on homosexuality are relevant in the larger scheme of things. However, I do want to point out the kind of inconsistencies and double standards that Malaysian institutions (LPF, religious bodies) and some citizenry have against specific issues.

Within the context of the Malaysian society, the normalization of LGBT communities are seen as sinful and unacceptable. This is not a secret. However, I do want to point out that rape, murder, backbiting, and adultery are all seen as sinful and unacceptable too. In fact, I would argue that rape, murder, backbiting and adultery are worse than being gay. There should not even be a comparison. But under artistic license, we are okay with the depictions of these sins. Some of them are not even being depicted in a negative light. Ombak Rindu comes to mind with its backwards interpretation of what rape is. For goodness sake, the female protagonist married her rapist to "halalkan" their sexual relations.

So who decides that being gay is more messed up than a Stockholm syndrome developed by a girl which led her to beg her rapist to marry her? Who decides that Harry Potter which tries to normalize witchcraft (sihir) is acceptable and being gay is not? Gay people exist, but I know a number of friends who have pre-marital sex. Both are vilified within the context of society, but only one invites the kind of frenzy and controversy we see surrounding the Beauty and the Beast. Also, Belle is in love with a beast, which is literally bestiality. And I have yet to hear any arguments against normalizing relations with animals...

I take issue with the kind of arbitrary nonsense that people are basing their values on. The quick answer is that homosexuality is treated differently in Malaysia because we have enough people at the top with support of religious bodies normalizing and vilifying this issue. The same kind of attention and energy somehow had not been directed to condemn real, systemic issues such as domestic abuse or even rape. Not many recoil at the thought that a movie is arguing marrying her rapist as her path to happily ever after. I for one think that it's absurd but I don't argue that we should ban Ombak Rindu. I accept that not everyone thinks the way that I do.

Here's what it comes down to: if we want to apply moral concept to everything in our society, we have to be unequivocal in our application. We have to be clear of the specific moral concepts that works for everyone in this nation. If not, the inconsistencies are glaring and we are perpetuating arbitrary codes of conduct that can easily be used to abuse minorities and people who don't agree with us.

There also comes another big problem. How do we regulate moral codes? How can we decide what is acceptable and what is not? Who are we to decide? I don't have the answer to that, and I suspect no one does. We can go down the path of Saudi Arabia where everyone has to abide to one specific code but I don't see the country as being exemplary by any know standards. And even their code is ridden with unavoidable inconsistencies that stem from human errors or just prejudice.

I would argue then that we should reject the kind of outdated traditionalist approach to society. If we can't objectify something, who decides the rules? Why are we so open to a system where a few people or segments of society have a say in what is acceptable?

I radical rethinking is needed to how we conduct ourselves. Now I'm not a self-important snob, so I will end by saying that this is my opinion and it's not popular. It's not unpopular too- they're just my conjectures.

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