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A Brief History of the MCU’s LGBTQ Promises and Problems

As "Doctor Strange 2" hits theaters worldwide despite a ban in Saudi Arabia, Disney and Marvel (start to) hold firm against censorship. How did we get here?

Marvel gay superheroes

Marvel

There may be endless timelines in the Marvel Cinematic Universe but, back in the real world, some countries are far behind on any sort of forward movement and evolution.

Disney and Marvel have been holding firm for the release of “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” which features a brief moment in which newbie character America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) mentions her two moms and flashes back to a childhood moment with them. As the studio has refused to make the requested changes to the film, the newest MCU title will not be released in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries.

It’s hardly the first time Marvel parent company Disney has weathered a censorship battle over LGBTQ content in its films, which began with the overhyped “exclusively gay moment” in its live-action remake of “Beauty and the Beast” in 2017, but the resistance to giving into the demands this time around perhaps signals an important sea change.

Since the “Beauty and the Beast” kerfuffle, Disney has faced both backlash and praise for a lesbian character in Pixar’s “Onward,” a non-binary character in “West Side Story,” and a gay romance in Marvel’s “Eternals.” Behind the scenes, the studio has also faced accusations that it toned down or cut LGBTQ references, including romantic storylines in “Luca,” “Black Panther,” and “Turning Red.” The studio is responding to the outspoken criticism, reportedly restoring a previously-cut gay kiss in Pixar’s forthcoming “Lightyear.”

So far, Marvel seems to be where Disney is taking its biggest risks, as the superhero tentpoles are gradually introducing more LGBTQ characters (and, as is the case with “Multiverse of Madness,” apparently starting to stand by them).

How did we get here?

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