Has Disney played some Jedi mind tricks on Beijing’s film censors, or is the march of progress afoot at the Chinese multiplex?
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker‘s much touted same-sex kiss — the fabled franchise’s very first LGBTQ moment — has gone uncut by China’s oft heavy-handed film regulators. Moviegoers attending Wednesday night preview screenings of Skywalker in both Beijing and Shanghai reported the moment had been retained.
China’s stance on LGBTQ content has ranged from oppressive to inconsistent in recent years. Multiple Oscar-winner Brokeback Mountain was denied a release back in 2005, despite director Ang Lee’s star status in the country. Gay-themed content also has been routinely blocked from television and streaming services. Michael Fassbender’s same-sex kiss was among the five minutes regulators lopped off the theatrical release of Alien: Covenant in 2017, as well.
That same year, however, the celebrated gay moment in Disney’s live-action Beauty and the Beast was allowed to screen without any cuts or “parental warnings.” The authorities even called attention to their tolerance in that instance, with the Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece The People’s Daily‘s tweeting at the time: “Controversial gay moment kept in Disney’s #BeautyAndTheBeast. Movie premiered on Mar 17 in China, requires no guidance for minor audience.”
The LGBTQ moment in Rise of Skywalker comes near the film’s end, when two female members of the Resistance share an exuberant kiss during a celebration sequence. They are minor characters and not heavily featured in the film though.
Skywalker‘s director, J.J. Abrams, had hinted that such a moment would be coming. During the film’s press tour he told Variety, “In the case of the LGBTQ community, it was important to me that people who go to see this movie feel that they’re being represented in the film.”
Disney’s Star Wars films have been on a pronounced downward trajectory at the China box office, but the studio is pulling out all the stops for its trilogy closer. Rise of Skywalker is getting a substantial number of preview screenings across the country Wednesday and Thursday ahead of the local wide release Friday. The film earned approximately $1.9 million from 31,868 showings Wednesday, according to early local estimates.