Censoring Gaga

by Steven

Lady Gaga seems to be a favorite topic of mine.  This entry will be the third post from me concerning her.  Because she’s such a champion for gay rights, how can I not talk about her?  Well it seems in Malaysia radio stations are censoring her single Born This Way by garbling: “No matter gay, straight or bi, lesbian, transgendered life, I’m on the right track, baby.”  This action is taken as a precaution to avoid fines and penalties imposed by the government for playing songs that violate “good taste or decency or are offensive to public feeling.”  I should also note that in Malaysia, homosexuality is a crime that could carry a penalty of up to 20 years in prison.  The day I learned of this news, I posted a status update on my Facebook jeering Malaysia for censoring Lady Gaga in this manner.  A friend of mine then quickly responded by stating “No, good for [Malaysia].  People should respect the majority of the culture.  Sad that things are still taboo, but the song is way to progressive to just put out there for a ‘conservative’ country.”  While I strongly believe that differences in cultures should be respected, I felt a stronger reaction disagreeing with his statement.  After I wrote a rebuttal to his statement, I questioned why I reacted so passionately.

I was born and lived my childhood in Indonesia, the country neighboring Malaysia.  Indonesia happens to be the largest Muslim country in the world and aside from religion, the two countries share many cultural traits.  Fortunately, unlike in Malaysia, homosexuality is not criminalized in Indonesia.  Although it’s not criminalized, the general population’s mindset is still somewhat conservative compared to the West and homosexuality is somewhat of a taboo in Indonesia.  Furthermore, with the rise of fundamentalist Muslims in the government, I wouldn’t be surprised if one day Indonesia follows Malaysia’s lead and criminalizes homosexuality.  I think my strong reaction to my friend’s rebuttal comes from my own personal experience of having lived in that region and being transplanted in the US.  His reaction brings to light that many gay Americans take their freedom for granted much too often.  Although we still have some ways to go in achieving equality, we can live our lives much more freely and openly here than you can in Malaysia or Indonesia (or in most parts of the world!).  I consider myself lucky to have gotten out of Indonesia and can’t imagine what my life would be like if I had stayed there.  I figure it must be harder for gay Malaysians especially since their government brands them as criminals.  This perspective is why I had such a strong reaction to the news that Lady Gaga’s lyrics are being censored in Malaysia.  I think we as gay Americans should realize that millions of gay men and women around the world hunger for the same type of freedom that we take for granted every day.  Once we realize this, we should always stand up for our gay brothers and sisters out there and condemn any sort of action taken to silence them.

5 responses to “Censoring Gaga

  1. I’m from Malaysia (attending school in the USA), and they censored Katy Perry’s ‘I Kissed a Girl’ too (‘girl’ was replaced with some kind of instrumental, I think it was a guitar riff). The top radio stations and their DJs are actually pretty progressive, I think. I’ve seen quite a few of the DJs enjoying the nightlife, and they definitely have at least a few gays in their circles. They’re part of the urban environment, and gays are pretty common among the young city/suburban crowd. The rest of the country is still somewhat behind though.

    In the capital city, homosexuality is kind of an open secret. I’m open with my circle of friends, but for the most part it’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. It helps if you come from an affluent background. They don’t harass people who hang out at the trendy/rich areas as much, mainly because that’s where the wealthy expatriates and their families hang out too. After all, it’s ‘unseemly’ to cause a fuss in front of the moneyed foreigners. Also, you rarely hear about people being put on trial for gay sex, except in the case of one of our politicians.

    Having said that… the situation is still unacceptable. I would sum it this way: My mom knows I’m gay and (I think) loves me still, but if I were to return home and work, she wants me to be a lot more ‘discreet’ because she’s afraid of what people might say/do to me.

    As much as the USA is behind on marriage equality… it’s worse in many other places. Not that that makes it okay.

  2. Have you seen this article, Steven? It appeared in the Guardian on Friday:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/mar/18/malaysia-first-film-gay-characters

    Cheers!
    Victor

    • Thanks for the article Victor. I guess it’s a start, albeit not a great one given the film’s portrayal of gays as depressed and confused. This reminds me of when Nia Dinata’s film “Arisan!” came out in Indonesia which features the first ever on-screen kiss between two men. The difference between the two films is that “Arisan!” portrays gay men in a much more positive light. Let’s hope Malaysia will have its own version of “Arisan!” soon.

  3. Yes, quite like the trajectory here where gays were/are routinely show as deviants, murders, self-loathing drag queens, etc.

    Although one notable exception in “Boys in The Band” (1969). At the time the movie based on Matt Crowley’s invidious play caused an outrage in the GLBT community because it was believed to have furthered ugly stereotypes at the time. But watching the movie now, we can and should ask ourselves: Has that much changed?

  4. Pingback: Signs of Pride in Jakarta | Queerious?

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