Disney Refuses To Cut LGBT Reference from ‘Doctor Strange 2,’ Saudi Arabia Says
Disney, already embroiled in controversy in the US after criticizing a Florida law that bans school lessons on sexual orientation, has rebuffed requests by Saudi Arabia to remove LGBTQ references from the new film Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Homosexual relations are a capital offense in Saudi Arabia. Nawaf Alsabhan, Saudi Arabia’s general supervisor of cinema classification, said on Monday that the cuts amount to “barely 12 seconds” in which America Chavez, a lesbian character played by the actor Xochitl Gomez, refers to her “two moms.” The Doctor Strange sequel is slated for release around the world next week. “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.” But Alsabhan denied reports that the film has been banned. “It will never be banned,” he told Agence France-Presse. “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.” Unconfirmed rumors that the film had also been banned in Kuwait were reported on Friday by the Hollywood Reporter. While viewers in the United Arab Emirates can already buy advance tickets, they were removed from sale in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar. In November, regulators in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries asked Disney to make cuts to another Marvel movie, The Eternals, which features a gay couple. Disney refused to make the cuts and the film did not screen in the kingdom. A longtime ban on cinemas was lifted in 2017 in conservative Saudi Arabia, and since then, ticket sales have skyrocketed, reaching $238 million in 2021, a 95% increase over the previous year.