Why Eternals Has Been Pulled From Theaters In The Middle East

Marvel Studios is getting ready to release its next big screen blockbuster, and while Eternals will almost certainly be the number one move at the domestic box office this weekend. It’s global box office take is now a much more interesting question following news that the movie has been pulled from theaters in several countries in the Middle East, apparently due to the film’s content including an openly gay character.

According to THR, While Eternals was expected to hit screens throughout the Middle East beginning November 11, the movie has now been pulled from exhibition in the nations of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar. While no official “ban” is in place, the word is that Disney was asked to make edits to the film regarding the film’s gay character Phastos, played by Brian Tyree Henry.

The Eternal Phastos is in an openly gay relationship with anther man in Eternals, and in one scene they share a kiss. Considering that homosexuality is still against the law in many parts of the Middle East, it’s far from surprising this would be the reason that the movie is seeing scrutiny there. In the past, Disney and other studios have released edited versions of films in regions where that content is seen as objectionable. However, in this case it seems Disney/Marvel was apparently unwilling to do so. 

Disney has yet to comment officially on the situation. It’s possible that it was simply deemed impossible to make the edits that were requested without harming too much of the plot of the movie itself. Previous references to homosexulaity in Disney movies like Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and the live-action Beauty and the Beast were simply fleeting images that could easily be taken out without major changes to the film. This is dealing with a primary character, so it may have simply been too tough.

While financial considerations were almost certainly weighed her, those aren’t always the only concerns to be considered. And even if the money was the determining factor, perhaps it was decided the movie would not do enough business in these markets to make the change worthwhile.

It’s not like this was unexpected. Movie studios, and Disney specifically have dealt with this before and they likely expected this sort of pushback. When the decision was made to make one of the Eternals gay, this was likely discussed internally back then, and the decision was made to do it anyway.  

Director Chloe Zhao was part of conversations about this very topic, and she, at the time, was hopeful that edits would not be made, and now it appears Marvel is backing her up.  This is good news for those that want to see representation increase on the big screen.

Dirk Libbey
Content Producer/Theme Park Beat

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian, Dirk began writing for CinemaBlend as a freelancer in 2015 before joining the site full-time in 2018. He has previously held positions as a Staff Writer and Games Editor, but has more recently transformed his true passion into his job as the head of the site's Theme Park section. He has previously done freelance work for various gaming and technology sites. Prior to starting his second career as a writer he worked for 12 years in sales for various companies within the consumer electronics industry. He has a degree in political science from the University of California, Davis.  Is an armchair Imagineer, Epcot Stan, Future Club 33 Member.