West Side Story has reportedly been banned in Saudi Arabia and five other Gulf nations because of it featuring a transgender character.
Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of West Side Story will not show in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman or Kuwait, The Hollywood Reporter (THR) reported.
Although the reasoning is yet to be confirmed, sources told the outlet that the decision was a result of West Side Story’s inclusion of a transgender character – Anybodys, played by non-binary actor Iris Menas.
The movie was never given a release certificate in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait which, of the six regions banning West Side Story, are considered the strictest when it comes to censoring content.
The remaining four countries requested cuts from the movie, though Disney reportedly refused to oblige meaning that the 9 December release date in the region will not go ahead.
Homosexuality is still criminalised in many Middle Eastern regions and is even punishable by death in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which often prompts the censorship of any LGBTQ+ references in entertainment media.
According to THR, the Chloe Zhao-directed film was not released in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait due to the inclusion of Marvel’s first-ever gay superhero Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry).
THR stated that a number of “edits” were requested from cinema chains in the Gulf regions to Disney, who were not willing to comply.
West Side Story will be released on 10 December.