Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness Banned in Saudi Arabia Because of LGBTQ Character
“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” finds sorcerer Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) traversing the multiverse to battle an as-yet-unknown foe after he alters the very fabric of reality in “Spider-Man: No Way Home.” America Chavez is set to play a key role in the film, with her superpowers making her exceptionally useful on Strange’s latest mission. As such, given its likely substantial screen time, Disney was unwilling to make the changes demanded by Saudi censors in order to secure its theatrical release in the country.
In the past, Disney has successfully circumvented censors in homophobic markets by only including LGBTQ+ portrayals in its films that are easy to cut, blink and miss. Recent (and more infamous) examples include the brief onscreen kiss between a pair of Resistance fighters near the end of “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” and a scene in Pixar’s “Onward” where Spectre, a Cyclops police officer voiced by multi-hyphenated queer Lena Waithe, mentions his girlfriend. Warner Bros. recently pulled off a similar trick with “Fantastic Beasts: Dumbledore’s Secrets,” a film that needed just six seconds to remove explicit references to the odd romance between Jude Law’s young Dumbledore and Mads’ Grindelwald. Mikkelsen.
Another factor to consider: Disney has just come under fire for funding the politicians behind Florida’s notorious HB 1557 or “Don’t Say Gay” bill, a law that bars teachers from primary to discuss sexuality and gender in their classrooms. In hopes of improving its image in the public eye, it directly led Mouse House to restore a previously cut scene in which a queer couple kiss onscreen from the upcoming Pixar animated film “Lightyear.” Combined with the size of America Chavez’s role, this no doubt contributed to the studio’s decision to refrain from censoring “Multiverse of Madness” for Saudi Arabia.
“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” will be released in theaters in the United States and other select markets on May 6, 2022.