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Marvel’s Eternals will reportedly skip cinemas in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait or Qatar because it features LGBT+ characters.
The film, which was slated for release in the region for 11 November, has been quietly pulled from websites advertising it across the Middle East. It is still listed as coming soon in the United Arab Emirates.
One regional cinema chain told The Hollywood Reporter that Eternals had been “banned” – yet, no explanation was given to them.
Sources told The Hollywood Reporter that Eternals was put on the chop by local censors, who wanted edits that Disney, which owns the Marvel franchise, reportedly refused to make.
Director Chloe Zhao had previously spoke of her hope that Marvel wouldn’t cave to pressure to erase Eternals’ queer content.
The film is Marvel’s first to feature an openly queer superhero.
At one point in the celestial showstopper, Phastos, played by Byran Tyree Henry, and his on-screen husband Ben (Haaz Sleiman) share a passionate kiss.
Sources suggest the queer characters were singled out by censors, with homosexuality still illegal across the Gulf.
In Saudi Arabia, LGBT+ folk face a raft of punishments, including chemical castrations, public whippings and capital punishment. Gay men in Kuwait, meanwhile, are prosecuted under “debauchery” laws with six-year prison sentences.
Queer people in Qatar can be punished with fines and up to three years in prison. Under Sharia law, the death penalty is also possible.
Onward, a Disney film that saw a seconds-long mention of a lesbian relationship, was swiftly banned in a raft of Middle Eastern countries.
“I wish I had that when I was a kid to see this,” he told the magazine. “My god. I wish!
“Can you imagine how many lives this is going to be saving — kids, young queer folk, who are being bullied, committing suicide, and not seeing themselves being represented?
“And now they get to see this — it’s above and beyond.”