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Chinese streaming site Mango TV is under fire for censoring Remi Malek’s best actor acceptance speech during Sunday night’s 91st Academy Awards ceremony.
Clutching his new Oscar trophy, Malek said the acclaim surrounding his performance as Queen singer Freddie Mercury should be taken as encouragement by all young people “struggling with their identity.”
“Listen, we made a film about a gay man, an immigrant, who lived his life unapologetically himself,” he said.
Mango TV, however, replaced the words “gay man” with the phrase “special group” in its translated subtitles. Screen grabs of the moment — many of them accompanied by statements of outrage or complaint — have been circulating on Chinese social media ever since.
Mango TV was one of just two sites to stream the Oscars live in China. The service is majority owned by the country’s second-most-watched broadcaster, Hunan TV.
The incident isn’t the first time Mango TV has run into controversy for censoring content from a Western awards show for the same reasons. In 2018, it faced criticism for blurring images of fans waving rainbow flags during the broadcast of the Eurovision Song Contest. The European Broadcasting Union responded by pulling the Chinese company’s license to show future editions of the contest.
As of Wednesday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences had issued no response to the reports of Mango TV’s censorship of Malek’s remarks.
The Chinese government’s official stance on gay-themed content is known to be repressive, but forever shifting. Last year, the state-backed Beijing International Film Festival planned to screen the Oscar-winning gay romance Call Me by Your Name, but the event later cut the film from its lineup. Gay-themed storytelling has been barred from television in the country for years, and a controversial set of guidelines introduced in 2017 placed a similar ban on the online streaming space.
Yet exceptions have occasionally been made. The widely discussed “gay moment” in Disney’s live-action Beauty and the Beast was allowed to run uncensored in Chinese cinemas in 2017, and state newspaper The People’s Daily even celebrated the decision on local social media, posting: “Controversial gay moment kept in Disney’s #BeautyAndTheBeast … requires no guidance for minor audience.” Barry Jenkins’ Oscar winner Moonlight (2017) was similarly allowed to stream on iQiyi, a local Netflix-like platform.
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