The 1975’s Matty Healy Talks Malaysia Protest Kiss Controversy – Rolling Stone

The 1975’s Matty Healy got on his soapbox and defended the band’s on-stage protest against anti-LGBTQ laws in Malaysia, which got them banned from the country.

Back in July, the 1975 headlined the Good Vibes festival in Kuala Lumpur, but their set was cut short after Healy criticized the country’s strict laws banning same-sex relationships and then kissed bassist Ross McDonald (this was not the first time they’d done this). Not only was the band’s set cut short, but the Malaysian government stepped in and canceled the remainder of the three-day festival.

In the aftermath, the 1975 has faced legal action, with the festival’s organizer, Future Sound Asia, demanding the band fork over £2 million in damages. Some Malaysian acts who were unable to play the fest because of its cancellation filed a class action suit as well, while Healy also faced criticism from Malaysian LGBTQ activists over the way he staged his protest. Julian Casablancas of the Strokes — who were also booked to play Good Vibes, but didn’t after the cancellation — lightly criticized Healy, too, saying people “should be knowledgable and respectful toward the culture you’re not familiar” and arguing that such protests “should be strategic.”

With all this simmering, Healy defended himself during the 1975’s show in Dallas on Monday night, Oct. 9. While on stage, he read a lengthy statement from his phone, pre-empting the diatribe in classic Healy fashion: “Unfortunately, there’s so many incredibly stupid people on the internet that I’ve just cracked. And everyone keeps telling me that you can’t talk about Malaysia, don’t talk about what happened in Malaysia, so I’m gonna talk about it at length… I am pissed off, to be frank.” 

Healy argued that the 1975 didn’t “waltz into Malaysia” but were booked by festival organizers who were well-aware of the band’s political views and stage show. He said kissing McDonald “was not a stunt simply meant to provoke the government” but an “ongoing part of the 1975 stage show which had been performed many times prior.” Had the band taken out any “routine part” of the show to “appease the Malaysian authorities’ bigoted views of LGBTQ people,” Healy argued, that would’ve been “a passive endorsement of those politics.” 

He added: “As liberals are so fond of saying,’ silence causes violence, use your platform’ — so we did that. And that is where things got complicated.” 

While Healy noted the violently repressive nature of Malaysia’s laws on homosexuality (it’s criminalized and punishable by death), he focused primarily on the “liberal outrage against our band for remaining consistent with our pro-LGBTQ stage show.” He said it was “puzzling” that “lots of people, liberal people, contended that the performance was an insensitive display of hostility against the cultural customs of the Malaysian government and that the kiss was a performative gesture of allyship.” Healy also claimed “other apparent liberal people” criticized the kiss as “a form of colonialism,” and that the 1975 was “forcing its Western beliefs on the Eastern world.” 

Healy vociferously rejected both arguments, especially the latter, stressing again that the 1975 was “invited” to play in Malaysia and, “despite the band being amateur jiu-jitsu enthusiasts, we’re not very good, and we have no power at all to enforce our will on anyone in Malaysia.” He added: “In fact, it was the Malaysian authorities who briefly imprisoned us.” 

Near the end of his speech, Healy brought up the various illiberal laws regarding LGBTQ people and other issues like bodily autonomy on the books in many U.S. states. He argued that those who criticized his actions in Malaysia “would find it appalling if the 1975 were to acquiesce to, let’s say, Mississippi’s respective bullshit trans laws.” 


He concluded: “The idea that it’s incumbent upon artists to cater to the local cultural sensitives of wherever they’ve been invited to perform sets a very dangerous precedent. It should be expected that if you invite dozens of Western performers into your country, they’ll bring their Western values with them. If doing the same things which made you aware of them could land them in jail in your country, you’re not actually inviting them to perform, you’re indirectly commanding them to reflect your country’s policies by omission. This goes against the very idea of a site of cultural exchange where differences are allowed to coexist. This fact is a more valuable idea to protect than the bigoted sensitivities of those who wish its demise.” 

After wrapping up, the 1975 launched into “Love It If We Made It.” 

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