The Guardian states that 12 seconds featuring America Chavez, a lesbian character, mentioning her “two moms” has been flagged to be taken out. “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,” Nawaf Alsabhan, general supervisor of cinema classification in Saudi Arabia, said to Agence France-Presse. “We sent it to the distributor, and the distributor sent it to Disney, and Disney has told us they are not willing.”
With Saudi Arabia’s strict requirements surrounding depictions of queer people, there had been reports that the fantasy movie would be banned entirely unless certain moments are removed. “It will never be banned,” Alsabhan states. “There’s no reason to ban the film. It’s a simple edit – so far they have refused. But we haven’t closed the door. We’re still trying.”
The film culture there has been in flux in recent times. In 2017, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman unbanned cinemas, after being outlawed for 35 years, as part of his ongoing attempts to shift the region away from entrenched conservative values.
Audiences there contributed a total of $238 million to the global box office in 2021. Whether they’ll get to see Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness remains to be seen – it comes to theatres in the UK and US May 6.