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Countries are censoring the new Buzz Lightyear movie over a same-sex kissing scene. It’s not the first time that Disney has faced LGBTQ backlash

June 16, 2022, 5:59 PM UTC

Following a year marked by turmoil with its LGBTQ+ fan base and employees, Disney is releasing its first-ever movie that shows a gay kiss.

Lightyear, which opens in the U.S. and global markets on Friday, stars Chris Evans and tells the tale of the astronaut behind Toy Story character Buzz Lightyear. It features a character named Alisha Hawthorne, voiced by Uzo Aduba, who is in a relationship with another woman.

As a result of its LGBTQ+ content, the movie has been banned or censored in several countries across the globe.

On Monday, the agency in control of media censorship in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced on Twitter that Lightyear violated the country’s media content standards, and as a result is not licensed for public screening.

Film censorship agencies in Malaysia and Indonesia have also flagged the movie for review, the New York Times reported.

In Singapore, the film has been approved only for audiences over 16 years of age, according to the agency in charge of media regulation in the country. “While it is an excellent animated film set in the U.S. context, Singapore is a diverse society where we have multiple sensibilities and viewpoints,” said Cheryl Ng, chair of the country’s Films Consultative Panel (FCP), in a statement. “This being a children’s cartoon, a significant number of FCP members felt that the overt depiction of same-gender marriage would warrant a higher rating.”

Lightyear is not the first Disney film to be censored in other countries for its depiction of gay characters.  

The live-action Beauty and the Beast, which showed two male characters dancing, was banned in Kuwait when it came out in 2017. Onward, from 2020, which showed a lesbian cyclops police officer that utters the phrase “it gets better,” was banned in several Middle Eastern countries. And last year’s Eternals, in which a male character named Phastos has a husband, was banned in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Kuwait.

Disney has recently positioned itself as supportive of LGBTQ rights. After initially refusing to comment on Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, the company faced a wave of criticism from employees and consumers. The entertainment giant then reversed its position, to which Gov. Ron DeSantis responded by railing Disney as a “woke” corporation and initiating a special session of Florida’s Congress to revoke special land use privileges that Disney had enjoyed for half a century.

Although the company has depicted same-sex relationships in its films in the past, Disney has not always proved itself to be strongly allied with LGBTQ+ employees and fans. Executives at the company allegedly cut Lightyear’s same-sex kiss scene at first, only to add it back following backlash in March, according to reporting from Variety.

In a letter to Disney CEO Bob Chapek that month, employees at Pixar, the Disney-owned animation studio behind Lightyear and Toy Story, wrote that they’ve observed a pattern of LGBTQ+ scenes being cut by company leadership.  

“Nearly every moment of overtly gay affection is cut at Disney’s behest, regardless of when there is protest from both the creative teams and executive leadership at Pixar,” their letter read. “We at Pixar have personally witnessed beautiful stories, full of diverse characters, come back from Disney corporate reviews shaved down to crumbs of what they once were.”

Beyond questioning its public stance, fans and employees also criticized Disney for donating to Florida politicians who supported the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Companies backing conservative politicians, even as they paint themselves as pro-LGBTQ+, is not an uncommon practice, according to a recent report from progressive think tank and advocacy group Data for Progress. 

The group published its Corporate Accountability Project, which provides research on Fortune 500 companies’ donations to anti-LGBTQ+ politicians, earlier this month.

During the period from 2019 through March 2022, those companies, including some that have sponsored Pride events, donated almost $3 million to lawmakers whose agendas include anti-LGBTQ legislation. Disney did not respond to Fortune’s request for comment.

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