Category Archives: Trips and Journeys

America vs Malaysia: What It’s Like to See a Movie in Another Country

It’s impossible not to fall in love when you really know Malaysia. Located in South Asia, the peninsula is home to many religions and races including Malays, Indians, and Chinese. Because Malays are the dominant race, Malaysia is a Muslim country. West Malaysia borders Thailand in the north, and Singapore in the south. East Malaysia borders Indonesia and Brunei.Geographically, America and my hometown of Malaysia are an ocean apart. However, the cultural differences may not be what you expect.

People from all over the world, especially teenagers, love to go to the movies to relax and chill. And when I say chill, I mean literally. I stepped into the cool, air-conditioned lobby of a Malaysian theater. The lights were dark blue with pretty stylish light bulbs hanging from the ceiling. Posters plastered the walls and movie characters could be found everywhere. A long line of people stood at the concession stands which sold the usual – popcorn, candy, drinks, etc. A dim hallway led to various theaters.

Inside the theater, it was pitch black, save the red lights on the side of the stairs that were supposed to guide you to your seat. Speaking of seats – when you first buy a ticket, you can book your spot in the theater, reducing the need to line up for seating. The chairs are all connected in one row – if someone moves in their seat, the entire row feels it. Before show time, there are no advertisements playing at all. Trailers last about fifteen minutes before the real movie actually starts. The movie is played in its original language with subtitles appearing in both Bahasa Malaysia (the national language of Malaysia) and Mandarin.

Not only is the atmosphere quite different, but there is actually a Censorship Board in Malaysia – and it’s quite strict. The rating is also split up differently – U is for General Audiences, P-13 is for viewers below age 13 to have parental supervision, 16 is for ages 16 and above, and 18 is for ages 18 and above. Cinemas have the right to refuse minors entrance to movies if they are not old enough according to the rating. For example, Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 was heavily censored due to sexual content to meet Malaysia’s standard of P-13.

“The censoring is very obvious,” Yee Ann Soo, a 17-year-old student, explained. “There is one scene inTwilight where the girl is giving birth, and in the next, she’s lying on the bed, half-dead. They cut out the entire childbirth scene.”

Titanic was also heavily censored, cutting out parts of the nudity scene and removing the sex scene in the cargo entirely. The censoring allowed Titanic to be rated a U.

“It’s pointless because viewers don’t know what happened – they can’t see the story in it’s full,” said Yee Ann. “It’s not exciting anymore. You miss out on what the directors wanted you to see.”

Even so, Yee Ann loves the movies and goes to the theater about once a week with her friends. Part of the reason why could be that the movie fare in Malaysia is three times less expensive than the movie fare in USA. Whatever it is, the younger generations of Malaysia and America have a favorite pastime in common – chilling in the movie theater.

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