Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse UAE ban over ‘protect trans lives’ poster sparks backlash

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse failed Gulf censorship requirements likely due to its stance on trans rights, causing major fan backlash. (Sony Pictures Animation / PinkNews)

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse has failed the Gulf states’ censorship requirements, likely due to its stance on trans rights.

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (ATSV) is the sequel to the hit 2018 animation Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse starring Shameik Moore as Miles Morales (aka Spiderman) and Hailee Steinfeld as Gwen Stacy.

Since its release earlier this month to major box office success, trans fans have praised the brief glimpse of a “protect trans lives” trans flag and shared theories that Gwen Stacy is trans-coded.

Unfortunately, this is one reason why distributor Vox Cinemas pulled the film in the United Arab Emirates – which holds strict anti-LGBTQ+ laws, just days before its scheduled release date on 22 June, according to Variety. It is claimed that the UAE Media Council is reportedly objecting to the film, saying it is contrary to their values.

Reports are also emerging that neighbouring Gulf countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait are following suit, which is unsurprising given their track record. Egypt has also placed a ban.

In November 2021, Marvel’s Eternals was banned across Gulf nations over “gay characters”, followed a month later by West Side Story being banned in every single Gulf state for the inclusion of a groundbreaking trans character.

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In 2022, Disney Pixar Toy Story spin-off Lightyear was pulled from 14 countries including Saudi Arabia and UAE for featuring a brief same-sex kiss.

Finally, Marvel’s Doctor Strange: Multiverse of Madness faced censorship in Saudi Arabia for introducing queer teen superhero America Chavez.

Many fans have protested this latest decision to ban ATSV.

In Across the Spider-Verse, Miles Morales meets Spider-People from several different dimensions, including an iconic hijabi Spider-Woman and a Spider-Gwen who fans have dubbed a trans icon. Although she never explicitly comes out as trans in the movie, fans have pointed to several clues about Gwen’s gender identity.

It is in Spider-Gwen’s universe that we spot the ‘protect trans kids’ banner with a colour scheme that reflects the trans pride flag colours (white, blue and pink), and Spider-Gwen’s character arc is seen as a metaphor for coming out – in a world where she is forced to hide her identity as a Spider-Woman for fear of being misunderstood.

As for whether we’ll ever see this made explicit on the big screen, fans will have to wait until March 2024 when the third film in the franchise Spider-Man: Beyond the Spider-Verse is released.

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is in cinemas now.

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