Saudi Arabia’s cinema classification board is disputing reports that the upcoming Marvel tentpole “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” has been banned in the country due to a gay character played by Xochitl Gomez. The movie finds “The Baby-Sitters Club” actor making her debut as America Chavez in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Nawaf Alsabhan, Saudi Arabia’s general supervisor of cinema classification, told AFP (via The Guardian) that Disney is unwilling to remove “barely 12 seconds” from the film in which Gomez’s character refers to her “two moms.”
“It’s just her talking about her moms, because she has two moms,” Alsabhan said. “And being in the Middle East, it’s very tough to pass something like this. We sent it to the distributor, and the distributor sent it to Disney, and Disney has told us they are not willing.”
Variety has reached out to Disney for further comment.
Alsabhan told AFP that “Doctor Strange 2” will “never be banned,” adding, “There’s no reason to ban the film. It’s a simple edit…So far they have refused. But we haven’t closed the door. We’re still trying.”
As sources told Variety in the original report on the matter, Saudi Arabian censors did not issue a permit to release the film in the country since the changes they requested were not approved by Disney. “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” was initially slated for release in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries on May 5. In the region, movies concerning or containing sex, homosexuality and religious issues are routinely cut to comply with censorship rules. Last year’s Marvel tentpole “Eternals” was banned in the region due to a scene featuring a gay kiss.
With more Hollywood tentpoles including LGBTQ content, studios are being forced to either make edits to their movies or risk being banned in certain global territories. Warner Bros. made headlines earlier this month after it agreed to remove gay references from “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore” in order to secure a release in China.
“We want audiences everywhere in the world to see and enjoy this film, and it’s important to us that Chinese audiences have the opportunity to experience it as well, even with these minor edits,” Warner Bros. told Variety of the decision.
“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” begins its rollout in the U.S. on May 6.