Over the weekend, Ratty– sorry, Matty Healy of The 1975 managed to piss off an entire country of 30 million people on both sides of the political spectrum.
What happened? The 1975 was invited to headline Good Vibes Festival, Malaysia’s longest-running and most highly-anticipated music festival. During the band’s set, Matty Healy kissed bandmate Ross MacDonald, got pissed-drunk on stage, threw a tantrum, and allegedly broke a video drone.
He and his band were quickly informed that their set was then cut short, and they had to leave the stage. Before leaving, Matty “Drunk and Stinky” Healy gave a ‘speech’ on the Malaysian government’s anti-LGBTQIA+ laws. It was essentially a big ‘fuck you’ to the government. Here’s the full transcript of his speech and the video:
Soon, it wasn’t just fans of The 1975 who were supporting him online – foreigners, largely from Western countries, were praising the frontman for ‘speaking up’ for the LGBTQIA+ community in Malaysia.
Less than 24 hours later, the Malaysian government announced that the remainder of the festival would be cancelled due to “very rude actions and statements” exhibited by The 1975.
Sorry, as a born and bred Malaysian, I’m telling you right now that Matty Healy’s behaviour wasn’t ‘brave’ in the slightest. Instead, it was rude, trashy, and actually extremely inconsiderate to the queer community in our country. Guess what? He’s also just given political ammo to a rising conservative party that’s actively persecuting queer Malaysians in the country.
So what is Good Vibes Festival?
Just a little bit of context for those who are unfamiliar: the Good Vibes Festival is Malaysia’s equivalent of Coachella. For young Malaysians, it is the one time where they get to see international artists from both Western and Eastern entertainment perform for an entire weekend. For organisers and local businesses, it is, of course, a rare economic opportunity.
In the past, Good Vibes had welcomed acts including Lorde, Dua Lipa, and Cigarettes After Sex. This year, besides The 1975, The Kid LAROI and The Strokes were headliners. Sabrina Carpenter, Daniel Caesar, and South Korean powerhouse vocalist Lee Hi performed too.
The queer community in Malaysia
Malaysia has one of the toughest anti-LGBTQIA+ laws in the world. Queer individuals are often persecuted and are used as scapegoats by the extreme conservative Pan-Islamic Party (PAS) to fear monger and score election votes.
I’m not going to debate the state of politics here; that’s a separate mammoth story that warrants its own deep dive. The point I am making here is that amid rising oppression towards an already marginalised group, Matty Healy’s ‘speech’ only contributed to aggression towards the community.
Do Matty Healy’s fans really think that one (1) drunk speech would even marginally help advance LGBTQIA+ rights in Malaysia? Do they actually think he’s a genuine ally to thousands of queer youth in Malaysia? He gets to hop on a plane and leave (which he did, reportedly at 4:30am, just hours after that supposedly ‘heroic’ display). But thousands of lives are now going to bear the painful consequences of his irresponsible actions.
If he’s so concerned about actual people’s lives, then maybe don’t accept the gig in the first place. I will also acknowledge that the organisers probably placed too much hope on him to exhibit normal on-stage behaviour. However, local media report that The 1975’s application to perform in Malaysia was initially rejected in June. But the band signed a compliance contract promising no ‘wild’ behaviour on stage.
“We have carved out spaces and small wins, many of us have gone to jail or been detained for doing so. Matty pulling that stunt actively endangers efforts [by local LGBTQIA+ people] by shining a spotlight onto us… all this does is tighten the laws against us and increase the number of eyes on us,” tweeted a queer Malaysian activist.
A dying live-music scene
The timing of this saga could not have been more inauspicious, too. For the past months, young Malaysians have been lamenting the country’s dying arts scene. TIME Magazine’s feature sums up the issue well: with unstable politics and a weak currency, Malaysia is losing its appeal as a destination for international concerts in Southeast Asia.
Five to eight years ago, I fortunately still had the opportunity to attend concerts by Taylor Swift, Adam Lambert, and Justin Bieber in Kuala Lumpur. Now, Malaysians are counting their blessings that we’re even getting a single Coldplay show for a population of 30 million (for comparison, Coldplay and Taylor Swift are playing six nights a row in our neighbouring country, Singapore, which has a population of five million).
Of course, Matty Healy isn’t the reason for our decline as a concert destination for artists in Southeast Asia. But his behaviour was the final nail in the coffin. Ergo, making it difficult for organisers to pitch and invite artists to tour in Malaysia in the future. Fans don’t get to see their favourite singers. Local businesses lose a significant chunk of income (AU$4,900, according to one vendor on TikTok). Local currency would see no demand. Everybody loses.
Whether they’re Malaysians who support LGBTQIA+ rights, or those who just wanted to have a good time, Matty Healy has ruined the fun for everyone involved.
“Matty Healy single-handedly destroyed [Malaysia’s] music scene in one night,” one local concertgoer tweeted.
He’s not exaggerating.
I’m tired of having to constantly explain to obnoxious Westerners who won’t fucking get it. Navigating human rights issues is a delicate matter not just here, but anywhere in the Global South. It’s not your lived experience, therefore you will never understand what it’s like, how things should be done, and what should be said (or not said) to progress.
I’m not here to tell you to support – or not support – the laws and customs of Malaysia. I’m not here to advocate for or against it. But I’m here to tell you that this is yet another example of white saviourism, viewing other cultures as lesser than, and therefore in need of ‘saving’. Him becoming a raging drunkard to preach a word salad is peak performative bullshit.
I am begging Westerners to understand the concept of intersectionality when it comes to these issues. If you’re a reader from a Western nation and you find yourself agreeing with Matty Healy’s actions in this particular matter, you should probably pause for a moment and reflect on what it says about you.