We just reviewed Disney and Pixar’s Lightyear (READ: Lightyear Review) and ICYMI, we gave the film a Hype Meter score of 7/10. It wasn’t terrible but we wouldn’t go on and say that it was the best film we’ve seen. It was honestly a pretty decent offering — one that we still recommend for you to see. Despite our personal views on the film, Lightyear sadly didn’t perform as well in the box office sales — most people would even call it a flop of a movie. 

The Brief Kiss That Got Lightyear Banned In 14+ Countries! | Tech ARP

Expectations (including our own here at TIH) were pretty high due to the nature of Lightyear’s plot. Lightyear dives into the origin story of the character that supposedly inspired the creation of the action figure seen in the Toy Story films. Lightyear was expected to be an instant blockbuster hit but sadly it failed to reflect such projections in terms of sales. One of the biggest factors that attributed to the low sales and flop status of Lighter came in after fans found out about Disney’s somewhat controversial decision to include a brief kiss between a lesbian couple in the movie. This prompted 14 Muslim-majority nations — such as those in the Middle East and Asian countries like Malaysia — to ban the film from being released. 

Disney's Lightyear banned across much of the Muslim world for lesbian kiss | Marca

Some of these nations initially asked Disney to censor or remove the scenes in question which revolve around Lightyear’s commander/close friend Alisha Hawthorne whose sexual orientation and marriage to Kiko show explicit kissing scenes. Despite being banned in these countries, however, Lightyear still opened in 4,255 locations in the United States and in 43 markets overseas. This sheer number of screenings, however, still failed to bring in the proverbial “bacon” expected out of a Disney or Pixar film.

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Disney's 'Lightyear' banned in Malaysia, Muslim countries over same-sex kissing scene | Fox News

Lightyear’s producer Galyn Susman even addressed this issue by saying that “We weren’t going to change the movie we wanted to make just because of a few countries with — for a lack of a better term — backward beliefs.” The question that is left on our minds however is if these said: “backward beliefs” really played a huge role in the lowballs and flop status of Lightyear. This article will dive into the aspects of the issue and our personal thoughts on whether the concern towards the lesbian kissing scene really has the merits to affect the performance of the film. 

Culture Matters

Lightyear' banned in 14 markets

I was honestly on the fence when I first heard about this particular issue. As with most issues, there are two polarizing schools of thought or beliefs at play. This is where I personally found myself to begin with — right smack in the middle. One of the crucial ideas that we need to understand is the nature of the banned status of the film and where they actually stem from. When we look closely at it, the decision to ban the film in the aforementioned countries cannot be easily labeled as a backward kind of thinking. It is, by all means, a cultural issue. A cultural issue that needs to be understood and seen from both perspectives. 

Culture in its essence is something that has been built over time. Therefore it can be easily said that those who have a certain set of beliefs can appear backward in terms of the way they view certain issues. The way a certain culture has developed as sociologist Émile Durkheim puts it comes in both the material and non-material aspects of society which is both valuable since “they hold society together”. The non-material aspects of culture include the values and beliefs, language, communication, and practices that are shared in common by a group of people while the material aspect includes a wide variety of things, from buildings, technological gadgets, and clothing, to film, music, literature, and art, among others. Therefore even films such as Lightyear help in culture building.

Lightyear' movie ban won't have major impact on global box office

This was why cultures that have been established for a long period of time with a variety of beliefs and ways of living and thinking cannot easily be changed. There is an almost alien nature when concepts such as those that deal with the LGBTQ community are shown or introduced in films such as Lightyear. It simply is unnatural and outside of the considered norm in these said cultures. It therefore cannot be expected for change to easily be introduced despite the progressive nature of our world today. On this side of the argument, I find myself needing to respect the variety of cultures that didn’t quite agree with the 5-second smack, or maybe it was even the very relationship that they didn’t condone. 

I do however also believe that culture isn’t something set completely in stone. It doesn’t stay stagnant but it also evolves and prospers. Culture changes and adapts. This is evident in most groups of people and beliefs. There is a multitude of factors such as films, music, and the arts that help shape and mold culture. Movies, music, literature, and the arts in fact are one of the great mirrors of our society as they depict the deep longings and messages that people are greatly concerned about within every generation. Most of these are even repetitive from generation to generation. The majority of films today deal a lot with inclusion because this is what society has painted. Certain social groups are crying out for proper representation in films for the relatability factor due to the oppression and discrimination faced today. 

Disney Lightyear Film Banned From Screening in 14 Countries

Lightyear was clearly an attempt at this. The reception however admittedly wasn’t favorable — for a short kissing scene clip to be received in this way, it just goes to show the current state of our culture and many cultures today. The majority come from Muslim regions and religion admittedly plays a big factor in this. One of the more concerning factors however is my next point —the reception of parents and families regarding the said scene.

Lightyear Is A Family Film Not A Kid’s Movie

One of the misconceptions that usually kicks in when it comes to this particular film is its standing as a kid’s movie. I have to break mindsets here. Pixar and Disney have long thrown away the concept or idea that they are in the business of creating films solely for kids. The animation aspect may make it appear kiddie but the content and story are far from it. We have films such as Encanto, Turning Red, Inside Out, and many more that are indicative proof of this idea. Let me, therefore, emphasize that Lightyear, like many films before it, is, by all means, a family film.

lightyear sales flop

Lightyear is meant to be consumed together as a family. I would not expect a kid to enter the cinema by themselves to watch Lightyear. The norm would be children watching the movie with their entire family. This is why parenting is very crucial. The goal is for parents to process and ask tough questions. The thinking that such films will instigate or plant such ideas shouldn’t be fear but rather a driving force for proper open discussion to occur. This is the essence of parental guidance. Guiding children to the hard truths is a must. I honestly believe that it would be better for parents to be the ones to guide and spark conversations such as Lightyear rather than children having to face them on their own in other circumstances in the future. There shouldn’t be an underestimation of the intellectual capacity of children as each are unique and individual beings. Therefore statements such as “they are too young to comprehend” shouldn’t be a hindrance but rather a means to trust in the ability to talk things through.

lightyear sales flop

This is why I personally love movies and what occurs afterward. This is why I love to review the stories and plots that I witness on the screen because this is how culture is built even further — not in mere consumption but in the ability to converse and process. We have the ability to think and discuss not just whether a film is visually pleasing or not but rather if the stories, symbols, and themes resonated with us. We too can have meaningful conversations with kids on a film like Lightyear if only we choose to trust them and allow the avenue and space for them to occur. 

Did “Backwards Thinking” Really Affect Lightyear Sales & Flop Status?

lightyear sales flop

Sad to say, this issue caused a lot of problems for Lightyear, especially in terms of sales and further pushing the film to a flop status. Lightyear even failed to beat Jurassic World: Dominion which was already in its second week. I even personally found Lightyear’s story to be more engaging and meaningful than the latter. This goes to show where we still are as people today. We cannot say it is a collective state as there are groups of people who are beginning to be more open and accepting of concepts, beliefs, and ideas such as these. 

lightyear sales flop

I see the low sales and flop of a movie that is Lightyear, as a small bump on the road to progress. Those in the film industry and the arts shouldn’t lose hope however by what went down with Lightyear but rather I encourage them to continue to push on and create content — despite being controversial — that creates waves and at times even chaos in society. These films open up the doors for conversations and periods of ruminating about where we are as humans. So despite the low sales and flop status, Lightyear is still a very powerful film both in the fun story it provides as well as the stand it takes on social issues. 


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