July 21, 2004
SEX and the City may be all right for audiences in Singapore, but censors have drawn the line at Taiwan's highest-grossing film this year, banning the teenage romantic comedy for its gay theme.
Formula 17, which has grossed double the $100,000 it cost to make, was banned, despite an appeal from its distributor, because it encouraged homosexuality, Singapore's Films Appeals Committee said on Thursday, July 22.
It said panel members thought the film "creates an illusion of a homosexual utopia, where everyone, including passersby, is homosexual and no ills or problems are reflected".
"It conveys the message that homosexuality is normal, and a natural progression of society," the panel said.
Strict Singapore has loosened some of its stuffy social controls in recent years, partially relaxing a ban on chewing gum in January, allowing some bars to stay open for 24 hours and ending a ban on the US sitcom Sex and the City last week.
But many tough rules remain. Playboy magazine is still banned, while oral sex remains technically illegal under a law that says "whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animals" can be fined and jailed up to 10 years, or even for life.
The government said in January it plans to review its sex laws, and oral sex would most probably be decriminalised -- but only between men and women.
The panel said it took into account the findings of a recent survey that more than 70 percent of Singaporeans are not receptive to homosexual lifestyles.
Formula 17, directed by a 23-year-old, has been a sensation in Taiwan, its box-office earnings making it the most successful homegrown film this year, the island's media say.