Influence Of Foreign Films Media Essay

Media plays an important role in our lives. Swindler claims that the accumulated experience of media exposure contributes to the cultivation of a childs values, beliefs, dreams, and expectations. He further explains that these will in-turn shape the adult identity a child will carry and modify through his or her life. These influences can be negative or positive. (Santosh K, 2009) It also confines peoples thinking capability although it generates lot of ideas and thoughts. This contaminates the audiences who are lack in experience and sometimes believe in what they are being exposed to, in another word the passive audience. This research investigates on the influence of the media specifically; film, on its audience. The films in this study refer to the foreign films with LGBT elements and the audience are Malaysian youths.


The Malaysian community is generally conservative and to talk about matters regarding sexuality is thought to be shameful (Sears, 2005). Malaysia is one of the countries that are actively persecuting people from the LGBT community. This is due to the British colonial-era sodomy law that lasts till today. The law, though theoretically also applies to heterosexual couples, has been used unequally to persecute the LGBT community or those suspected of being part of the community and has been repeatedly used as a political tool. This was seen in the case of then finance minister Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim. The legal persecutions on the LGBT community have seeped into the minds Malaysians and this has affected their perceptions of the community and their behaviour towards them and in general it is one that is negative. Social, cultural and legal factors play a role in moulding their perceptions and behaviour but so does the media. In the regards of this research, film specifically. Gomillion and Giuliano (2011) stated that films these days have much more depictions of gay, lesbian and bisexual (GLB) characters. Gommillion and Giuliano added that as the standing of GLB figures in the media has risen, it seems likely that the media’s impact on the lives of GLB individuals has also grown. For example, with more LGBT-themed films like Brokeback Mountain, Milk and Victor Victoria. Though in Malaysia these films are blocked, they are accessible via the internet. This study hopes to understand the effects of LGBT films on the lifestyles of Malaysian youths, specifically their perceptions and behaviour about the LGBT community.

Literature Review

Generally, discussion on sexuality in Malaysia is viewed as inappropriate. This cultural value is governed by perception of religious teaching (Wong et al.2010). Malaysians do not discuss sexual development in detail and most of the parents will not discuss sex topics with their children (Low et al. 2007; Mohammadi et al. 2006). Culturally, gayness and lesbianism is considered by many Malaysians as a product of the Western world (Baba, 1995; Junet, 1991; Rahim, 1991).

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One of the most important sources in sex related knowledge for youths is mass media (Davis et al. 1998; Nonoyama et al. 2005). A one year old child can replicate materials based on their observation (Mumme 2003). By 18 years old, the child will have seen 20,000 acts of violence and 40,000 murders on television, based on average viewing time (Huston 1992).

Obviously, media portrayals can influence children’s developing beliefs and values. Research shows that many stereotypes based on gender, race, age, and sexual orientation are portrayed in the media (Towbin et al. 2004). Portrayals of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people in mainstream media moulds the mentality of viewers on how the gays and lesbian community live their lifestyle which inevitably arrays the general population to think that gay people are soft and sensitive with no trace of masculinity. Gays and lesbians comprised 2% of characters in the 1999-2000 television season, and most were cast in minor roles (GLAAD 1999).

Ellen DeGeneres, the lead actress on her popular primetime sitcom Ellen, made television history by coming out of the closet as a lesbian. Since then, gay and lesbian characters have become increasingly prominent in the media (Gross 1994). After Ellen’s bold move, television shows like Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, Will and Grace, and The L Word, movies like Brokeback Mountain and Milk, and musical artists such as The Indigo Girls and Melissa Etheridge have appeared, appealing to both homosexual and heterosexual audiences.

The media’s influence on the lives of LGBT individuals has also increased as the prominence of GLB figures in the media rise. The purpose of the current investigation was to examine the impact of the media on LGBT identity (Gomillion & Giuliano 2011). Role models in media can affect individuals’ personality, characteristics, and values through the process of identification. Feilitzen and Linne (1975) proposed two primary types of identification: similarity identification and wishful identification.

Similarity identification is defined as finding similarities with or idealising a media figure and living vicariously through his or her activities. Where wishful identification is when an individual desires to be like a media figure due to the media figure’s appealing qualities such as attractiveness and fame. Matthews (2003), in an exploration of the role of the media in children and adolescents’ identity development, discovered that preschoolers identified intensely with television and movie characters and mimic them while playing. Adolescents’ peers become more influential in high school to their media-viewing choices and the media becomes an important component of their social lives. Matthews also discovered that the media provides positive role models for both children and adolescents and can be of beneficial influence on their social lives.

The opposite is also true where the media can exert negative influence on children and adolescents by providing negative role models and by exposing children to traumatic material. Matthews concluded that media experiences contribute to individuals’ development of their sense of self and that these experiences remain significant into young adulthood and possibly beyond.

Research Hypothesis

This research proposes that foreign film regarding LGBT lifestyles do influence Malaysian youth’s lifestyles (perception and behaviour) and the type of influence is to be ascertained.

Research Questions

Do foreign films regarding LGBT lifestyles influence Malaysian youths?

What are the influences of foreign films about the LGBT community on Malaysian youth?

Does the presence of LGBT in the media encourage the Malaysian LGBT community publicly their homosexuality?

How do foreign films influence the LGBT movement in Malaysia?


In this research, qualitative research will be used in order to achieve the research’s objective which is to study in depth of the foreign films influence on LBGT lifestyles in Malaysia. Content analysis is a family of procedures for studying content and theme of written or transcribed text (Insch, Moore, & Murphy, 1997). Content analysis will be conducted to study the foreign films, books, newspapers, laws and any form of text that relevant to the topic.

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Interviews will be conducted to obtain information that cannot be gain through observation and questionnaire. In this research, Berger’s semi structured interview will be used in the focus group to maintain the casual and less tense environment for the interviewees. Based on Mark (2005), group dynamic in a focus group can stimulates conversation and reactions. Since LGBT issue is a taboo subject in Malaysia, focus group will be the best tool for this research. In addition, through focus group, group norms can be easily identified. As this research is limited in resources and time, focus group will be the most suitable tool to get relevant information in a short period of time. After the focus group, one to one interview will be conducted to follow up on the missing answers. Sample used will be Malaysian aged 15 to 24 as define by United Nation the age group of youth. The sample will be asked a few basic LGBT related questions to avoid the wrong sample.


As Malaysia develops, the support for LGBT rights among the citizen is increasing. This can be seen in an annual sexuality rights festival “Seksualiti Merdeka” (Sexuality Independence) since 2008. By the end of this research, besides finding the relation between foreign films and Malaysian youth’s lifestyle, we hope to uncover the influence source of the movement. In Malaysia, there are numbers of researches done on youth and sexuality but not specifically on LGBT, youth and the media. At the end of this research, we hope to determine the influence of foreign films regarding LGBT on the Malaysian youths’ lifestyles. To prospective researchers, this research can also provide a starting point in terms of the recent status of LGBT communities on Malaysian youths.



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