A Saudi censor has denied banning Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness – but confirmed it has asked Disney to cut an LGBT+ scene.
It was reported last week that the upcoming Marvel film had been banned from showing in Saudi Arabia cinemas.
According to The Guardian, the film was singled out for a 12-second scene in which new, queer character America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) refers to her two mothers.
Saudi Arabia’s general supervisor of cinema classification, Nawaf Alasbhan, denied the film had been banned outright, but told the outlet: “It’s just her talking about her moms, because she has two moms, 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.”
Alasbhan still hopes Disney will agree to cut out the 12-second scene, and says censors “haven’t closed the door, and are still trying”.
This isn’t the first time a Disney film has been singled out over LGBT+ scenes or characters.
In November 2022, Eternals was also banned in Saudi Arabia because two gay characters, Phastos, played by the actor Byran Tyree Henry, and his on-screen husband Ben, played by Haaz Sleiman, shared a passionate kiss.
The recent West Side Story remake was also banned over its inclusion of a trans character.
In both cases Disney stood firm – however it has faced criticism over its barely-there approach to LGBT+ inclusion, and has been accused by Pixar employees of cutting moments of “gay affection”.
Saudi Arabia is known for censoring its media, and LGBT+ rights are not permitted to be endorsed due to a ban on same-sex relations.
Homosexuality, cross-dressing, and being transgender carry penalties that can include public whipping, torture, beatings and fines.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness will hit cinemas in the UK on 4 May.