Onward: New Pixar film banned in Middle East because of reference to lesbian relationship

Louise Hall
Disney

Pixar’s new animation Onward has been banned in a number of cinemas in the Middle East because of its representation of homosexuality, according to Deadline.

The report states the film has been forbidden from cinemas in Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia as a result of one of the film’s characters openly referencing their lesbian relationship.

The film features the magical lives of two young elf brothers, played by Tom Holland and Chris Pratt respectively, who go on a quest to resurrect their father for one day of adventure. In her four-star review of Onward, The Independent’s film critic Clarisse Loughrey called it a "soul-crushing tearjerker in the tradition of 2017’s Coco and 2015’s Inside Out."

In one scene a cyclops police officer called Specter, who is voiced by Lena Waithe, complains about the challenges of parenting and makes a casual reference to her LGBT+ sexuality.

She says, “It’s not easy being a parent — my girlfriend’s daughter got me pulling my hair out, OK?”

Deadline reports that Waithe’s character has been heralded as Disney’s first openly gay character.

However, some Middle Eastern countries have censored the film in light of the reference, having cut the picture completely.

Russia has also allegedly censored the LGBT+ narrative in the animation, switching the word “girlfriend” with “partner” and opting to avoid mentioning Specter’s gender.

Other Middle Eastern countries have decided to show the film without any edits, including Bahrain, Lebanon and Egypt.

Waithe explained to Variety that the line was her idea, and that its inclusion allowed her to stay true to her own identity.

She was said to have asked at a recording session if she could say the word “girlfriend” in the line.

“I was just like, ‘It sounds weird’,” Waithe told the magazine.

“I even have a gay voice, I think. Like, I don’t think I sound right saying ‘husband’. They were like, ‘Oh yeah, do that’. They were so cool and chill. And it ended up being something special.”

“It’s a modern fantasy world and we want to represent the modern world,” director Dan Scanlon said.

Production companies, directors and producers have come under scrutiny in recent years for failing to include LGBT+ characters.

However, this is far from the first time major territories have been party to banning or censoring the LGBT+ references included in such films.

Russia, Malaysia and Kuwait attempted to prevent younger audiences from witnessing an LGBT+ “moment” in Disney’s live-action Beauty and the Beast in 2017.

Kuwait and Malaysia banned the film outright, while Russia gave the picture a 16+ age rating, according to Deadline.

Last year, Russia also censored scenes in Rocketman and Avengers: Endgame due to LGBT+ references.

On its opening weekend the film topped the box office in North America with estimated takings of around $40m.

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