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‘Onward’ Banned in Multiple Middle Eastern Countries, Censored in Russia for Gay Reference

The target is Lena Waithe's purple cyclops Specter, recently celebrated by Disney as the studio's first openly gay character.


Lena Waithe’s character in “Onward”


Disney Pixar’s 3D-animated fantasy “Onward,” which just opened throughout the world this week, has reportedly been banned in multiple Middle Eastern countries due to a brief reference to a lesbian relationship. According to Deadline, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia have all prohibited the film from showing in theaters, while fellow Middle Eastern markets including Bahrain, Dubai, Lebanon, and Egypt are carrying on with showing the film.

The warmhearted “Onward” is set in a suburban fantasy world and centers on two teenage elf brothers (the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Tom Holland and Chris Pratt) trying to resurrect their father from the dead using a 24-hour magic spell. The passing LGBTQ reference occurs as the elf brothers, collectively disguised as their mom’s centaur boyfriend, named Officer Bronco, discuss parenting with two female police officers. One of them is a purple cyclops named Specter, who’s voiced by Lena Waithe and is, according to the studio, Disney’s first openly gay character. Specter tells “Officer Bronco,” “It’s not easy being a new parent. My girlfriend’s daughter got me pulling my hair out, okay?”

Russia, which is known for bleeping LGBTQ content, reportedly censored the scene, swapping out the word “girlfriend” for “partner,” and blurring mentions of Specter’s gender. Last year, Russia censored scenes in films such as “Rocketman” and “Avengers: Endgame” due to gay references.

The Specter character in “Onward,” even in the lead-up to the film’s release, has already been a target of outrage from various activist groups. According to a report from the website LGBTQ Nation, One Million Moms, a division of the American Family Association, has taken issue with Waithe’s character. “There have been numerous attempts by Disney to indoctrinate children with the LGBTQ agenda discretely and now more overtly,” a statement on its website reads.

“These scenes are subtle in order to desensitize children. But now Disney has traded its subtlety for intentionality. Disney has decided to be politically correct instead of providing family friendly programming. Disney should stick to entertaining, not pushing an agenda. Please share this with your friends and family to make sure they are aware of the gay character in ‘Onward’ and not blindsided by it. As moms, we all want to know when Disney is attempting to desensitize our children by normalizing the LGBTQ lifestyle.” The statement includes an option to sign a petition, to be sent to new Disney CEO Bob Chapek.

A representative for Disney has not responded to IndieWire’s request for comment.

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