Matty Healy accused of "white saviour complex" from LGBT activists following Malaysian concert kiss

Matty Healy of the 1975 performs at the Reading Music Festival, England, Sunday, 28 August 2022.
Matty Healy of the 1975 performs at the Reading Music Festival, England, Sunday, 28 August 2022. Copyright AP Photo
Copyright AP Photo
By Theo Farrant
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Matty Healy's concert stunt with The 1975 in Malaysia has sparked significant outrage among local LGBT activists and allies, with many accusing him of displaying a "white saviour complex."


British pop singer Matty Healy's protest stunt during a concert in Malaysia has incited anger from LGBTQ activists and allies in the country.

Many have criticised the 1975 singer's profanity-laden tirade against the Malaysian government, along with his kiss with bandmate Ross MacDonald, as an example of "performative activism" that could exacerbate the challenges faced by LGBT individuals.

Homosexuality remains criminalised in Malaysia, carrying a penalty of up to 20 years in prison. 

The country is heavily influenced by conservative Islam, leading to restrictions on sexuality, alcohol, and other perceived threats to traditional values and "public decency" standards.

While some locals appeared to appreciate the gesture, many argue that he disrupted an already delicate political environment for LGBT Malaysians, causing more harm than good.

What happened?

Lead singer Matty Healy sparked fury within the government by attacking the anti-gay legislation and kissing a male bandmate during their performance at the start of the Good Vibes Festival 

Healy told the Kuala Lumpur crowd it was “fucking ridiculous to tell people what they can do with that and that,” gesturing to his crotch. 

He continued, “If you want to 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, and I’m fucked off.” 

Footage of the fiasco was posted on social media and sparked a backlash in the predominantly Muslim nation.

The aftermath:

Scott Roth/AP
The 1975 performs at The Governors Ball Music Festival at Randall's Island Park on Friday, 6 June 2014 in New York.Scott Roth/AP

The following day, authorities ordered the closure of the entire Good Vibes festival, which still had two more days to go, affecting other international acts scheduled to perform, including The Kid Laroi, The Strokes, and Ty Dolla $ign. 

Many festival-goers had paid significant amounts to attend, with some traveling from other parts of Southeast Asia.

"There will be no compromise with any party that challenges, belittles or violates Malaysian laws," said Malaysia's Communications and Digital Minister Fahmi Fadzil, in a statement on Facebook. 

The agency in charge of approving performances by foreign artists said it was disappointed with the band's conduct, calling it "an insult and disrespecting the laws of the country." It said the group will be blacklisted from performing in Malaysia.

The response from the LGBT community :

Many LBGTQ activists fear that Matty Healy's actions could be the start of a larger clampdown on LGBTQ rights and that he was only doing it as a publciity stunt. 

“What Matty Healy did, he thought he was doing something for us, but it’s giving white saviour complex,” Carmen Rose, a Malaysian drag performer told the BBC. 

“If he wanted to advocate for queer rights here, he wouldn’t just fly off and leave the mess behind,” she added. “I don’t think he’s doing it for the community, he’s just doing it for himself … it was a publicity stunt.”

Many other queer Malaysians have taken to the internet to voice comparable critiques, deeming his actions insincere at most.

Matty Healy has since posted a response to the controversy on his Instagram story reading, 'Ok well why don't you try and not make out with Ross for 20 years. Not as easy it looks'.

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