Censorship can happen to the best of us, the worst of us, and the gay-est of us. Such it was for the international telecasts of the Academy Awards. As it turns out, it’s not just a problem being gay in some Asian societies – it’s a problem even saying the word “gay”.
The Daily Telegraph spells it out. The acceptance speeches made by Best Actor winner Sean Penn and Best Original Screenplay winner Dustin Lane Black, both for the film Milk, were either edited out of some broadcasts in Asia, or simply had the sound cut out, only leaving the image. Both Penn and Black made multiple references to Harvey Milk, being gay, gay rights, and the word “gay” was heard several times. The censorship is creating a bit of a mess in Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan and India, with many gay Asians loudly protesting. The Daily Telegraph has more:
Viewers in Asia saw a censored version of the Oscars after television chiefs removed gay references from Sean Penn’s best actor speech.
The STAR satellite channel, which broadcasts to more than 300 million viewers in 53 countries, also cut the sound when Dustin Lane Black, who wrote the screenplay for Penn’s film, Milk, addressed “all the gay and lesbian kids”. Milk is the story of Californian gay rights activist Harvey Milk.
Both Penn and Black backed gay marriage in their speeches and called for equal rights for homosexuals. Penn opened by calling the audience “commie, homo-loving sons of guns”.
Gay Asians voiced their anger at the broadcaster, which censored its evening telecasts of the awards ceremony. “As a gay man, I am truly offended,” Pang Khee Teik, a prominent Malaysian arts commentator, wrote in a letter sent out to several media organisations. “Stop censoring the words that describe who I am.”
Pang said the move “sent a message … that gays and lesbians are still shameful things to be censored from the public’s ears.”
Users of Internet forums in Singapore and India also complained about the censored speeches. Jannie Poon, STAR’s Hong Kong-based spokeswoman, stressed that the company had no intention of upsetting any viewers, but said it has “a responsibility to take the sensitivities and guidelines of all our markets into consideration.”
Poon said she was not immediately aware that the speeches had been censored, but noted that STAR’s preliminary ratings for the Oscar broadcasts indicated “record-breaking” audiences, especially in India and Taiwan.
Viewers first noticed that the words were silenced when Black offered a tribute to Milk while accepting the Oscar for best original screenplay.
“If Harvey had not been taken from us 30 years ago, I think he would want me to say to all the gay and lesbian kids out there tonight … that you are beautiful, wonderful creatures of value, and that no matter what anyone tells you, God does love you,” Black said.
He was followed by Penn, who said of an anti-gay protest outside the theatre: “For those who saw the signs of hatred as our cars drove in tonight, I think it’s a good time for those who voted for the ban against gay marriage to sit and reflect on their great shame and their shame in their grandchildren’s eyes if they continue that support.”
From The Daily Telegraph
It’s interesting that so many people are speaking out about the censorship. It might seem minor in the grand scheme of things, but this is a good way to begin pushing the gay rights agenda in more conservative, traditional countries. The statement from the STAR spokeperson is insulting – that they have “a responsibility to take the sensitivities and guidelines of all our markets into consideration”. Do they think that if people hear the word “gay” they will suddenly become gay?