In two weeks, audiences around the world will finally be able to lay eyes on the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, a day that’s been a long time coming for a superhero sequel beset by directorial changes, reshoots, and pandemic-induced delays.
However, fans in Saudi Arabia won’t be part of the equation, with The Hollywood Reporter revealing that the nation has banned the superhero blockbuster due to the inclusion of Xochitl Gomez’s America Chavez, who has been confirmed as an LGBTQ+ character.
Last year’s Eternals was subject to a similar ban, which drew the ire of many key cast and creative team members, with Doctor Strange 2 becoming the latest Marvel Studios epic to fall foul of local censors. Kuwait and Qatar have also withdrawn advanced tickets sales, but THR states they’re still available in the United Arab Emirates for the time being.
Marvel has been keen to increase diversity and representation across the board, something that’s become apparent even during the early stages of Phase Four, but that obviously isn’t going to fly with everyone. Of course, Multiverse of Madness is still guaranteed to be a massive success at the box office that’s in with a very real shot at becoming just the second COVID-era release to reach a billion dollars globally, but Saudi supporters of the comic book franchise will no doubt be left disappointed.
To be honest, this was expected in many quarters from the moment it was confirmed America Chavez would be acknowledged as gay in Sam Raimi’s film, so one small positive is that it hasn’t come as much of a shock.