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Disney’s ‘Onward’ Banned In Middle East Over Lesbian Character
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 23: Tom Holland attends the UK Premiere Of Disney And Pixar's "Onward" at The Curzon Mayfair on February 23, 2020 in London, England.
Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images for Disney

Multiple Middle Eastern markets have banned the Disney/Pixar animated movie “Onward” for featuring an explicitly lesbian character.

“Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have all banned the film due to the reference,” reports Deadline. “The film, released regionally this week, is nowhere to be seen on cinema schedules in those territories. Other Middle East markets such as Bahrain, Lebanon and Egypt are showing the film.”

Last month, after Disney successfully kept it under wraps, reports surfaced that “Onward” would be breaking new ground by being the first animated movie to feature an openly LGBTQ character voiced by Lena Waithe. The character is reportedly a lesbian police officer whose sexuality gets explicitly pointed out in the movie as opposed to just being implied, such as the alleged lesbian couple in “Finding Dory” or the “exclusively gay moment” in the “Beauty and the Beast” live-action remake.

Here’s how Slate described the moment:

But we don’t need to speculate about Waithe’s Officer Spector. We know because she tells us. When she and her partner, voiced by Ali Wong, pull over a driver who claims he was distracted because his girlfriend’s sons have been acting up, she commiserates, “My girlfriend’s daughter got me pulling my hair out.”

That line isn’t the point of the scene. In fact, it goes by so fast you could barely notice it. But that’s why it works so well. The film doesn’t pause to let it sink in or isolate the moment with a cut for emphasis. It passes unremarked, because in this world, it’s accepted as a fact of life. Some babies have two daddies, and some babies have two mommies, even if those mommies happen to be centaurs or elves.

Russia, a country known for censoring LGBT content in movies, switched out the word “girlfriend” for “partner.”

Though “Onward” has been banned in certain Middle Eastern markets, Disney has occasionally obliged censorship demands in those countries, such as when the lesbian kiss was edited out of “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” this past December.

The inclusion of Waithe’s character comes amid a wave of LGBT representation at Disney via the studio’s various intellectual properties and distribution platforms. In just a few months, Marvel’s “The Eternals” will be breaking new ground by not only featuring the first openly gay superhero, but also the franchise’s first gay kiss.

“It’s a beautiful, very moving kiss,” said actor Haaz Sleiman. “Everyone cried on set. For me, it’s very important to show how loving and beautiful a queer family can be. Brian Tyree Henry is such a tremendous actor and brought so much beauty into this part, and at one point I saw a child in his eyes, and I think it’s important for the world to be reminded that we in the queer community were all children at one point. We forget that because we’re always depicted as sexual or rebellious. We forget to connect on that human part.”

LGBTQ representation at Disney started in 2014 on the show “Good Luck Charlie,” which featured a lesbian mom couple.

“In the storyline, parents Amy and Bob Duncan (Leigh-Allyn Baker and Eric Allan Kramer) set up a playdate for preschooler Charlie (Mia Talerico) and one of her new friends,” TV Guide reported at the time. “When the kid arrives, the Duncans learn that Charlie’s pal has two moms. That’s fine, but the potential new friendship is put to the test as one mom chats with Amy, and the other is stuck listening to Bob’s dull stories.”

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