Marvel’s Benedict Wong slams ‘cowardly’ homophobes for attacking young Doctor Strange star

Side by side stills of Marvel characters Wong (Benedict Wong) and America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) from the film Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

Benedict Wong has come out swinging for Doctor Strange co-star Xochitl Gomez after she was targeted with ‘shameful’ anti-LGBT+ hate.

Gomez, 16, makes her Marvel Cinematic Universe debut in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness as queer teen hero America Chavez. 

It was recently reported that the sequel was being targeted by censors in Saudi Arabia over its LGBT+ content – specifically a scene in which Chavez talks about having two mothers.

Gomez told AsiaOne she was “so happy that Marvel” and Disney refused to bow to censors, calling America Chavez’ inclusion “a big deal”.

“And it’s just pretty crazy that I get to be the one who plays America,” Gomez said. “Although, yes, my name may be circled within hate and stuff, but it’s OK.”

But Wong – who plays Dr Stephen Strange’s friend and fellow sorcerer, Wong – emphatically disagreed.

“It’s not OK,” he said.

“We have to all collectively understand that… she auditioned aged 13 and she joined us aged 14, one of the youngest actors to join the MCU of a film of that magnitude,” Wong explained. “You know, she’s just a young girl playing her role and full praise for that…”

He continued: “So there’s a real level of shame for all those trolls that are cowards not to actually put their face on, and they should feel a deep shame of what they’re doing. 

“Let’s all just play nice. Let’s all just enjoy… what we are representing.”

Wong added that it was “sad” that fans might not get to see the film as “all we are doing is radiating representation, voicing the voiceless”. 

Saudi Arabia denies banning Doctor Strange 2

Nawaf Alsabhan, Saudi Arabia’s general supervisor of cinema classification, has denied that Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness has been banned outright in the Gulf nation.

He told The Guardian that Saudi censors had butted heads with Disney because of the 12-second scene in which Chavez discusses having two moms. 

Alsabhan said it is “very tough to pass something like this” in the Middle East, and that “Disney has told us they are not willing” to cut the scene.

He added that censors “haven’t closed the door” on the Doctor Strange film and are “still trying” to negotiate with Disney.

Marvel president Kevin Feige said that Chavez’s queerness is integral to her identity but said there’s “not any one thing” that “defines any one character”, the Direct reported. 

Feige described Chavez as a “14-year-old girl figuring out this very traumatic element of her life” as she “keeps being tossed around the multiverse multiple, multiple times” – which he pointed out is “not the LGBTQ issue”. 

“Being truthful to that and showcasing that, and that is not what the movie is about, but it is an important part of the character she becomes in the comics,” Feige added. “We wanted to touch upon that.”

Feige said Marvel wanted to “adapt” Chavez’s LGBT+ identity from the comics and keep as “truthfully as we can” to the source material. He added it was also important that Marvel films “present the world as it is”, the “world outside your window”. 

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness premieres in theatres in the UK on 5 May.