‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ Banned in Saudi Arabia Due to Gay Themes

Gulf nations previously blocked "Eternals" and "West Side Story" from premiering due to a new LGBTQ+ character.
"Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness"
"Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness"

“Doctor Strange 2” isn’t expanding to all the multiverses, it seems.

The Hollywood Reporter revealed that Sam Raimi’s sequel “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” will not be released in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, or Qatar due to a new character being gay. Homosexuality is officially illegal across the Gulf, and films that feature LGBTQ+ themes or characters are often censored.

The “Doctor Strange 2” character in question is America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), who is a lesbian in the film and the Marvel comics.

“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” was set to be released May 6 across the Gulf, but advanced tickets are no longer available for theaters in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar; the United Arab Emirates is still showing advanced ticket sales.

Fellow MCU installment “Eternals” was previously banned across the Gulf nations in November 2021 after showcasing Marvel’s first gay superhero and including a same-sex couple. THR reported that national censors demanded specific edits be made in order for the film to premiere, but Disney refused. A different, edited version did screen in the United Arab Emirates, however.

Disney’s “West Side Story” was dropped from release in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, and Kuwait in January over the character Anybodys, written as transgender in the film and played by nonbinary actor Iris Menas.

And Marvel isn’t the only franchise facing anti-gay international demands. More recently, China requested a six-second moment be cut from Warner Bros.’ “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore.” The scene included two lines of dialogue between Dumbledore (Jude Law) and Grindelwald (Mads Mikkelsen) confirming their past relationship and citing when they “fell in love” years prior.

“Doctor Strange 2” stars Benedict Cumberbatch as the surgeon-turned-wizard, and the lead actor told Empire magazine that the sequel includes a “lot of reckoning and a lot of self-discovery” for the characters.

“Strange is almost a stranger to himself before this film unfolds and reveals what, essentially, is in his nature, that he then has to either confront or resist or fall into or become,” Cumberbatch said. “There are some very bold ideas and some extraordinary tests of Strange and encounters. There are some very unexpected conclusions.”

The film also underwent “significant reshoots” in November 2021 as well as additional touch-ups in March 2022, just two months before its premiere.

Director Raimi, who also helmed Columbia Pictures’ original “Spider-Man” trilogy starring Tobey Maguire, told Variety, “Marvel’s been a great team to work with. [They’re] super professional and have supported me every step of the way [but] one thing I know about the Marvel team is they won’t stop. They’ll keep pushing it until it’s as close to being great as it could.”

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