Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness banned in Saudi Arabia over LGBT+ character

Side by side images of America Chavez from the Marvel comics as well as a still from Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness has been banned in Saudi Arabia because it includes an LGBT+ character.

The Marvel film, set to be released in cinemas on 6 May, 2022, is the sequel to the 2016 film Doctor Strange starring Benedict Cumberbatch.

The sequel introduces queer teen superhero America Chavez, played by Xochitl Gomez, who in the comics possesses superhuman strength, durability and speed.

But on Friday, 22 April, The Hollywood Reporter confirmed that because of the character, the film has been banned in Saudi Arabia.

Reports suggest that Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness has also been banned in Kuwait, according to the publication, although this has not been confirmed.

Advanced tickets for the first screenings are no long available from cinemas in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar, but are still available in the United Arab Emirates.

With increasing inclusion of LGBT+ characters in Marvel’s films has come greater censorship in anti-LGBT+ countries.

Last year, Marvel’s Eternals was banned in countries across the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait, reportedly because Disney refused to erase the film’s queer content.

Other films banned across the Gulf, where homosexuality remains illegal, include last year’s West Side Story over a trans character, and Disney film Onward, because of its seconds-long mention of a lesbian relationship.

LGBT+ folk in Saudi Arabia are severely repressed and criminalised, with punishments for homosexuality including chemical castrations, public whippings, torture, up to life in prison and the death penalty. 

In 2020, a court in Saudi Arabia sentenced a blogger to deportation and ten months in prison over a simple social media post supporting equal rights for gay people.

Blogger Mohamad al-Bokari was arrested because of a video he posted to Twitter in which he mentioned gay rights.

After his arrest, he was beaten by police and subjected to a forced anal exam to determine whether he is gay – a practice which has no basis in science or medicine and is condemned internationally as a form of torture.