Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse Faces Removal from Cinema Programs in Arab World, Potentially Due to Transgender Flag

by Ryan Lee
transgender flag controversy

The highly anticipated film “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” has been unexpectedly pulled from cinema listings in numerous Muslim-majority countries, leaving audiences puzzled. The reason behind this sudden decision seems to be the inclusion of a transgender poster that appears fleetingly in the background of a single frame.

Despite multiple requests for comment, Empire Entertainment, the distributor of this computer-animated Sony Pictures film in the Middle East, has remained silent.

No explicit ban of the movie has been announced, but there are clear indications that it will not make its way to the screens. For instance, a source closely associated with the film, who lacked authorization to speak publicly, revealed that there is no expectation for “Across the Spider-Verse” to be showcased in the United Arab Emirates. The source explained that this is likely due to the stringent censorship policies concerning films targeting children and younger audiences in the country.

On the official Saudi Cinema Twitter page, a statement accompanied by a movie poster stated that the organization would not approve any film that contradicts the nation’s media content regulations, especially if the production companies fail to implement the required amendments.

The superhero film, which features the Marvel Comics character Miles Morales as Spider-Man, had an impressive debut in U.S. cinemas at the beginning of June, surpassing the opening weekend revenue of its award-winning prequel.

Originally scheduled to release in the Middle East on June 22, just before the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, the film was listed in cinema programs until recently in countries such as Kuwait, the UAE, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Lebanon, and Egypt. However, it was suddenly and quietly removed from the schedules.

Although no official reasons have been provided, it is possible that the brief transgender reference in the movie caused offense in Arab countries, where the majority of the population, guided by Islamic law or Sharia, view homosexuality and transgender identity as sinful and contrary to their religious beliefs and societal norms.

The film includes a scene in which a transgender flag bearing the words “Protect Trans Kids” is seen hanging in the room of Gwen Stacy, a spider superhero voiced by actress Hailee Steinfeld.

While the UAE, with its futuristic city of Dubai and towering skyscrapers, has not explicitly banned the movie, it has previously removed certain films from theaters despite proclaiming an end to censorship to enhance its image as a liberal hub appealing to foreigners.

Emaar Entertainment, a state-owned entity and the parent company of Reel Cinemas, a major cinema chain in the UAE, confirmed that it will not be screening “Across the Spider-Verse.” The decision was attributed to Empire Entertainment, the exclusive theatrical distributor for Sony Pictures films in the Middle East.

Attempts to reach Empire Entertainment, the UAE Ministry of Youth and Culture, and the Saudi Ministry of Communications and Information Technology for comment were unsuccessful.

In a similar incident last year, Disney’s “Lightyear” faced bans in thirteen Muslim-majority countries due to a scene featuring a lesbian kiss. Although the scene had initially been removed, it was reinstated after protests from Pixar employees regarding Disney’s response to a controversial Florida legislation known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

The prequel to “Across the Spider-Verse,” titled “Into the Spider-Verse,” enjoyed a successful run in the region upon its release in 2018. In Lebanon, children proudly wear backpacks featuring Miles Morales, the franchise’s main character and the first Black Spider-Man, while malls across the UAE sell action figures of the movie’s beloved superheroes.

“Across the Spider-Verse” is the second installment in a trilogy that will conclude with a third chapter scheduled to hit regional cinemas next year.

This report includes contributions from Lindsey Bahr, a film writer at Big Big News.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about transgender flag controversy

Why was “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” removed from cinema listings in the Arab world?

The film was removed from cinema listings in the Arab world, possibly due to the inclusion of a transgender flag in one frame. This caused controversy and may have offended Muslim-majority countries where homosexuality and transgender identity are considered sinful and contrary to religious beliefs and societal norms.

Was the film explicitly banned in these countries?

No explicit bans were announced, but the film was quietly removed from cinema schedules without explanation. While no official statements were made, indications suggest that the film will not be screened in these countries.

What is the significance of the transgender flag in the film?

In one scene, a transgender flag with the words “Protect Trans Kids” is briefly seen in the room of Gwen Stacy, a spider superhero. This inclusion highlights LGBTQ+ representation and raises awareness about transgender issues.

Are there any similarities with previous incidents of film bans in Muslim-majority nations?

Yes, similar incidents have occurred in the past. For example, Disney’s “Lightyear” was banned in 13 Muslim-majority nations due to a scene featuring a lesbian kiss. These incidents often reflect cultural and religious sensitivities in those countries.

Will the film be released in the Arab world at a later date?

Currently, there is no information regarding a potential release date for the film in the Arab world. It remains uncertain if the film will be made available for audiences in these countries in the future.

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FilmGeek101 June 17, 2023 - 4:01 am

Wow, another film facing controversy and potential bans over LGBTQ+ representation. It’s disheartening to see these recurring incidents hindering progress and diversity in cinema. Let’s hope for more acceptance and understanding. #FilmCensorship #RepresentationMatters

SpideyFan42 June 17, 2023 - 12:06 pm

omg, wat?!? why dey remove spider-man frm cinema? stupid! it’s not fair, man. let ppl watch it, let evry1 enjoy. #SpiderVerse #TransFlagControversy


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