Matty Healy, frontman of British band The 1975, is once again the subject of controversy after a recent stunt in a Malaysian festival. In the middle of the show, Healy went on a rant against the country’s anti-LGBTQ+ laws, resulting in the festival’s cancellation. Despite whatever intentions Healy might have had, activists are criticizing his actions as a reckless spectacle, fearing the queer Malaysian community will be put at greater risk.
Thirty minutes into The 1975’s performance at the Good Vibes festival in Kuala Lumpur, Healy addressed the crowd. “I don’t see the fucking point of inviting The 1975 to a country and then telling us who we can have sex with,” he said. “Unfortunately you don’t get a set of loads of uplifting songs because I’m fucking furious.
“And that’s not fair on you, because you’re not representative of your government. Because you’re young people, and I’m sure a lot of you are gay and progressive and cool. It’s ridiculous to tell people what they can do with that and that and if you wanna invite me here to do a show you can fuck off. I’ll take your money, you can ban me, but I’ve done this before and it doesn’t feel good.”
You need a Vito Spatafore doll.
He then kissed bandmate Ross MacDonald, started up the song “I Like America & America Likes Me,” and was soon kicked off stage. “Alright, we just got banned from Kuala Lumpur, see you later,” he told the crowd.
The Malaysian government subsequently ordered the festival’s remaining two days to be canceled, citing their “unwavering stance against any parties that challenge, ridicule or contravene Malaysian laws.”
Those laws, relics of the British colonial government, include penalizing same-sex acts with up to twenty years in prison, and there are no protections against discrimination and violence. This year, the Global Trans Rights Index ranked the country as the second worst in the world when it comes to trans rights.
But as the activists fighting for LGBTQ+ rights know, turning the tide on decades of legal and social prejudice takes much more than a concert spectacle. Now organizers are worried that Healy’s actions will put a spotlight on the queer community in the middle of a tense political environment. TikToker Mikhail Hanafi argued that Healy could have spoken to local NGOs and activist groups on the best possible way to help but chose instead to center himself.
Dhia Rezki, deputy president of LGBTQ+ support group Jejaka, told The Guardian, “We’ve been doing a lot of work on the ground, community organizing, and having stakeholder meetings with local government agencies.
“Doing it at this scale, with a lot of people who are not aware of the discussions going around with regards to queer activism, that is what is harmful.”
Malaysian drag artist Carmen Rose added to BBC News, “It is giving white savior complex and he wasn’t doing it for our community. If he was doing it for our community, he would know what consequences we would have to go through.”
In the aftermath of the controversy, The 1975 have canceled shows in Indonesia and Taiwan, vaguely citing “current circumstances.” While The 1975 has several more international dates on this tour, queer Malaysians are stuck with the consequences of their one-off performance.