The next film in the Marvel universe, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, has been the subject of some controversy after reports surfaced that the Saudi Arabian government had banned the film due to LGTBQ+ references. Now, Disney seems to be holding its ground.
The Guardian has reported that Disney is refusing to cut a LGBTQ+ scene from Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness after Saudi Arabian officials requested to censor the film. Previous reports stated that the country had originally banned the film, although Saudi Arabia’s general supervisor of cinema classification Nawaf Alsabhan refuted these claims. He said that they asked Disney to cut a certain scene that mentions an LGBTQ+ relationship.
The LGBTQ+ scene in questions features lesbian character America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) making a passing reference to her "two moms." The sequence is only about 12 seconds, but Nawaf Alsabhan claimed that the content was “very tough to pass” due to their Middle Eastern location. He said that there was “no reason” to completely ban the film, but they are still trying to get the aforementioned scene cut from the Saudi Arabian release. Homosexuality is still criminalized in Saudi Arabia, where it is considered a capital offense under sharia law.
So far, there have been no attempts to ban other LGBTQ+ content from Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, despite the fact that new character America Chavez has been confirmed to be a lesbian.
Despite the low number of confirmed LGBTQ+ characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is not the first Disney film to undergo censorship in Saudi Arabia. The 2021 movie Eternals, which included an openly gay couple, was also scrutinized by the government for LGBTQ+ content. Disney refused requests to edit the movie for a Saudi Arabian release, leading to the film being pulled from theaters in that country. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the film also did not air in Kuwait and Qatar.
Disney seems to be holding firm in its LGBTQ+ representation, but its view towards the community has been heavily criticized in the past. The House of Mouse was originally neutral on the controversial “don’t say gay” bill recently signed by governor Ron DeSantis, but later came out against the law after the public (and celebrities like Oscar Isaac) called the company out. Disney cast members even planned a walk-out in protest. Marvel later issued a statement in support of the LGBTQ+ community, leading fans to hope that the company will continue to walk the walk.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is now playing in theaters everywhere. You can also check out previous installments in the franchise with your Disney+ subscription or take a sneak peek at the rest of the Marvel releases fleshing out Phase Four.
Actor, singer, and occasional dancer. Likes: fashion, books, old buildings. Dislikes: cilantro, the NJ Turnpike, sneaker wedges.
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