MANILA, Philippines - It’s a tale as old as time — and quite unfortunately, as true as it can be. I am not referring to the predictable romance that happens between Belle and the cursed beast that she unexpectedly befriends. That one’s but a fantasy; a fairy tale we mortals tell to remind ourselves of feelings of absolute joy, no matter how fake.
What I am referring to is something more relevant — sinister even. To see it, you only need to check out what’s playing at your nearest cinema this week. You’ll find bloody, violent action movies that are rated suitable for children, and you’ll find a nuanced, beautiful LGBT-themed film that is restricted to adult viewing only. We’re talking about the MTRCB’s R-rating for 2 Cool 2 Be 4Gotten, a tender coming-of-age film with queer sensibilities. The government’s classification board said the film lacks “any redeeming value” while it so easily passes on the numerous exploding heads, collapsing buildings, senseless deaths, and dubious morals in superhero flicks.
Abroad, several governments have reportedly banned parts of Beauty and the Beast simply because it features a gay character. It seems that even Belle and her princely beast are not immune to the backward mentality currently enveloping the world’s moral guardians. To them, an interspecies relationship is something that children can process, but a homosexual moment between two supporting characters is out of the ordinary.
The world is and has always been topsy-turvy. Modern society likes to pride itself on our progress when it comes to racism, intolerance, and bigotry, yet we are still witnessing glaring low points. We see it in our collective attitudes towards cinema and pop culture, and what we deem are proper for public consumption. Heck, we can even connect this to what’s happening in Congress, where self-appointed defenders of morality such as Senators Manny Pacquiao and Tito Sotto flagrantly champion the imposition of the death penalty in a justice system that is so fractured that it often produces erroneous convictions. Meanwhile, they vigorously oppose legislating protective measures for the benefit of the LGBT community.
When we allow the powers-that-be to see violence as less offensive than sex and queerness, we become conspirators to misunderstanding, intolerance and hate. Illustration by Rob Cham
But it isn’t just them. It’s also us.
We collectively delight when the screen is red with blood, loudly exclaiming how cool the film is with all the death and destruction that are spectacularly displayed in glorious Michael Bay-trademarked slow motion. However, when a limp genital peeks out momentarily or a pumping scene is shown, minus the gloss and glamour, we shrink in our seats, drenched with guilt for being confronted with our own anatomy and the most valuable expression of our passions. What is more alarming is how this already blatant illogic in humanity’s moral priorities is also tainted with prejudice. Sex is frowned upon if depicted with realism, but is mostly okay as long as it is straight and modest. Anything other than straight and modest, even if it isn’t sex, like let’s say a love-filled kiss between two men, is viewed as detrimental to society unless laden with good intentions. There is already a needless burden to justify the depiction, despite the fact that there is simply no hiding the truth that that love exists.
There is an invisible and unjustified hierarchy of propriety when it comes to what is allowable in mass media; violence is seen as less offensive than sex and queerness. When the powers, who are not just ministerial regulators but shapers of policy, subscribe to that antiquated hierarchy, it becomes a conspirator to misunderstanding, intolerance and hate. There is simply no redeeming value in latching on to worldviews that should have become obsolete when Jesus Christ, or Buddha, or whoever we chose to believe in taught us to love relentlessly and unconditionally.
However, society is still adamant in its refusal to mature. Its policies remain as old as the time when conquerors brandish their victorious killings but hide their love affairs. We remain to be a civilization defined by our ability to be awed by graphic and sensationalized brutality but scandalized by honest depictions of sexuality. We idolize warlords who rule with threats of murder, while we ridicule the men and women who simply answer the natural call to love, both emotionally and physically.
This is the society our children will inherit, a society where there are more beasts than beauties because media by virtue of governmental regulations and policy making has made them infatuated with violence, and humiliated by sex and who they are. Quite frankly, that possible outcome of our present attitudes is just too cruel to be forgotten.
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