Human rights activists deem Samoa’s ‘Rocketman’ ban ‘hypocritical’ and “a selective morality issue”

Samoa is a country where transgender women are widely accepted.

The banning of Elton John biopic Rocketman in Samoa has prompted criticism by human rights activists.

Released last month, Rocketman follows John (played by Taron Egerton) on his journey to becoming a world-renowned pop star. With the legendary musician struggling with addiction, mental illness, and his sexuality in his younger years, viewers are given a look at some of these past issues as they play out on screen.

Samoa’s ban of Rocketman was discovered on Monday (June 10), when Apollo Cinemas Samoa, the only movie theatre in the country, cancelled a screening of the film. Human rights activists have criticised the censorship of the movie, referring to it as ‘hypocritical’ being that in Samoan society transgender women are widely accepted.

Fa’afafines – children who are assigned male at birth but then raised by their families as girls – are an accepted demographic in Samoan society and occupy positions as leaders in the private sector, government and in village communities. The patron of the Samoa Fa’afafine Association is Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Lupesoliai Malielegaoi.

Co-secretary general of the International LGBTI Association, Tuisina Ymania Brown called the censorship “a selective morality issue,” after Samoa’s censor board’s decision to ban the movie because it doesn’t follow “Christian values.”

“The Church is now reaching into controlling peoples perception by banning the celebration of art, Rocketman is essentially a celebration of an artist,” Brown said, accusing the Church of influencing the decision.

Toleafoa Chris Solomona, a cultural expert from Savaii referred to the banning as “ignorant.”

“Fa’afafines are culturally accepted. Our culture is based on respect and inclusive[ness] – the censorship of this film means that we don’t accept elements of who they are, that’s just ignorant and not based on the reality of how we live.”

In 2009 Samoa also banned Milk – the movie about the life of gay rights activist Harvey Milk.

Earlier in the month, Elton John and Taron Egerton responded to Russia’s decision to censor Rocketman.

The news of Russia’s decision to censor Rocketman was reported by popular Russian critic Anton Dolin. He wrote on Facebook that “all scenes with kissing, sex and oral sex between men have been cut out… The nastiest part is that the final caption has been removed from the finale.”