Disney has refused to cut lesbian-related content in the new film “Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” ahead of its release in Saudi Arabia, according to Saudi officials speaking to Agence France-Presse (AFP), and as reported by The Guardian.
Saudi officials told the AFP that they have asked Disney to remove a portion of the film where one of the characters, America Chavez, refers to her two moms. Nawaf Alsabhan, the Saudi general supervisor of cinema classification, told the news agency that so far Disney has refused to remove the requested material.
“It’s just her talking about her moms, because she has two moms,” said Alsabhan. “And being in the Middle East, it’s very tough to pass something like this.”
The portion of the film amounts to “barely 12 seconds,” Alsabhan claims. He also denied claims that Saudi Arabia will ban the film entirely.
“It’s a simple edit,” he said. “So far [Disney has] refused. But we haven’t closed the door. We’re still trying.”
Despite his assurances, Variety reports that Saudi censors have not permitted the film to be released, as Disney has not complied with the requested edits. The film was scheduled to be released in the Gulf country May 5.
Homosexuality remains illegal in Saudi Arabia, and across much of the Persian Gulf region. Films are frequently censored for LGBTQ+ content. Last fall, “The Eternals” which, like the Dr. Strange films, is part of the Marvel franchise, had been banned from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar for containing a same-sex kiss. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the ban occurred after Disney refused to cut the scene.
Saudi officials may have more to say about the latest Marvel installment beyond the 12-second clip in question. The film marks the on-screen debut of iconic lesbian superhero America Chavez (played by Xochitl Gomez).