The Singapore government ordered the removal of a brief kissing scene between two men in a production of “Les Misérables” after it says it received some complaints from the public.
Les Misérables is a musical based on the French historical novel written by Victor Hugo in 1862. It is one of the longest-running musicals in the world.
During a wedding scene near the end of the show, a villain mocks the guests and kisses a male character who introduces himself as a “queer.” The kiss was supposed to be performed while the song “Beggars at the Feast” played.
Apparently, the kiss offended some viewers, who reported it to the authorities, arguing that the kiss was not part of the script in the original production.
Responding to the complaint, the government’s Media Development Authority (MDA) ordered the organizer to cut the kissing scene. Below is an excerpt of the agency’s statement:
Under our classification code, such a scene would fall under an “Advisory” rating. The applicant decided to remove the scene so as to keep the “General” rating for the rest of its run. MDA will take action against this breach of licensing conditions.
The musical's organizers complied, replacing the kiss with a long hug, though they insist—in an apparent effort to downplay the scene's homoeroticism—that the kissing was meant to be comic.
The show opened on May 31, and the kissing scene was removed on June 3.
The MDA's action infuriated many Singaporeans, especially the LGBT community, who felt that it was unnecessary.
The issue highlighted the dominance of conservative values in Singapore's bureaucracy. Despite the existence of a vibrant LGBT community in the country, discrimination continues to be a serious problem. In fact, Singapore outlaws sex between men.
An audience member in Les Mis saw a brief kiss between 2 men & freaked out. So of course he ran to the authorities. https://t.co/P57pwcW7Xr
— Kirsten Han (@kixes) June 11, 2016
The complaint against the same-sex kiss scene was posted on the Facebook page “We Are Against Pinkdot in Singapore,” which refers to the country's annual “Pink Dot” LGBT celebration.
Facebook user Gwyneth Teo urged the people who complained about the kissing scene to focus on the musical's other themes:
…for the complainants to zoom in on this kiss, which was a truly minor illustrative point inconsequential to the broader themes of the play, is really missing the forest for the trees. They could stand to learn a lesson or two about forgiveness from the play they had just watched.
Playwright Alfian Sa'at, meanwhile, said he is saddened by the MDA's decision:
You might think that canceling the kiss represents some kind of victory over LGBT’s and liberals, but honestly, it is nothing more than a triumph of ignorance and hysteria over common sense and sober reflection.