Several countries in the Middle East have taken a step backward within LGTBQI representation, choosing to ban the new Pixar film Onward over an overt lesbian reference made by a secondary character.
Fresh to the Pixar fold, Onward stars Chris Pratt and Tom Holland voice two elf brothers who set out to find a magic spell that resurrects their deceased father for 24 hours. Disguised as their mother’s centaur boyfriend, Officer Bronco, they find themselves in a conversation with a purple cyclops named Specter, voiced by Lena Waithe. On the topic of parenting, the purple cyclops says:
“It’s not easy being a new parent – my girlfriend’s daughter got me pulling my hair out, OK?”
The passing LGBTQI reference has seen the movie banned in multiple countries, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, and Kuwait. Meanwhile, Middle East countries such as Egypt, Lebanon, and Bahrain, are still showing the film.
Known for censoring LGBTQI content in the past, Russia has since chosen to alter the line to mention a ‘partner’ instead of ‘girlfriend’. The Russian dub also avoids any direct reference or mention of Specter’s gender-specific pronouns.
Speaking to Variety, Waithe was overjoyed at championing an openly queer character in a mainstream Disney-Pixar film, asking at one of her recording sessions, “Can I say the word girlfriend, is that cool?”
“I even have a gay voice… I don’t think I sound right saying ‘husband'”. Waithe continued, “They were so cool and chill. And it ended up being something special.”
While Onward suffered from a lackluster opening of $70 million worldwide, many sources continue to herald Specter as the first of many openly gay characters in Disney-Pixar films. Though the backlash hasn’t gone unnoticed, audiences are overjoyed to receive some LGBTQI representation in an animated film. A move that is long overdue.