Last Friday we learned that ‘Doctor Strange in the multiverse of madness’ was banned in Saudi Arabia due to the sexuality of the character of America Chavez. This is the latest chapter in a long list of films that the country has censored, such as ‘Eternals’ or ‘West Side Story’.
Apparently, the censors would have had too many requirements when cutting scenes, with content related to the LGBTQ community predominating. However, unlike what happened with Warner Bros when it came to releasing ‘Fantastic Animals: Dumbledore’s Secrets’ in China, Disney would not have accepted the terms, refusing to cut the footage.
*This article includes plot details for ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’
According to Nawaf Alsabhan, the general supervisor of Saudi Arabian cinema, the scene in question is a brief 12-second sequence in which the character of America Chavez, a lesbian and played by Xochitl Gomez, mentions both of her mothers. “It’s her talking about her mothers,” she says. “And being in the Middle East, it’s very difficult to go through this.”
Alsabhan declared that it was not censorship, but small cuts. “We sent it to the distributor, the distributor sent it to Disney, and Disney told us they weren’t up for it. It’s never going to be banned, there’s no reason to censor it. It’s a small edit, but they’ve turned it down. We close the door, we’ll keep trying.” According to The Hollywood Reporter, the ‘Doctor Strange 2’ presale is also expected to be withdrawn from Kuwait and Qatar, though not from the United Arab Emirates.
Cumberbatch to the rescue
The actor who plays former Sorcerer Supreme Benedict Cumberbatch has defended Disney’s decision to keep the LGBTQ scene in the original footage. He has spoken out at the film’s press tour calling Saudi Arabia’s request “an expected disappointment” and pointing out that it is “out of step” with current thinking of the human species.
“I’m afraid it’s an expected disappointment. We’ve come to know from those repressive regimes that their lack of tolerance excludes people who deserve to be, not just included, but celebrated for who they are and made to feel part of society and culture, and not punished for their sexuality. All of this is out of step with everything we’ve evolved as a species, and now that we exist globally as one culture. Frankly, all the more reason to include a member of the LGBTQ community.”
To the accusations that Disney tries to look good or be inclusive by force, Cumberbatch has recalled that the character of Chavez comes from the comics. “The character comes from the comics. It’s not something that’s been created for the sake of diversity. She’s been included because of how amazing she is as a character. It’s the only thing that should count but sadly now there’s a very politically charged component to it. And I wish I didn’t take it.”
“I wish we could have a normalized conversation about this and not be controversial, but no. So we still have to fight. We still have to fight for inclusion and equality, and I’m very grateful for the small, but in a giant perspective, of the change that Marvel and Disney are making,” concluded the actor.
‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ hits theaters on May 6.