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Benedict Cumberbatch Defends Doctor Strange 2 Amid LGBTQ Ban

Doctor Strange, Multiverse of Madness, America Chavez, Wong
By Liam Crowley

The upcoming Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a sequel full of both second steps and new beginnings. The film will continue the long-running stories of Benedict Cumberbatch's Stephen Strange and Elizabeth Olsen's Wanda Maximoff, while also launching fan-favorite rookie characters like Xochitl Gomez's America Chavez.

Since the promotional campaign for Doctor Strange 2 kicked off in December 2021, America Chavez has been at the forefront alongside the film's leading stars. While Chavez is a Marvel Cinematic Universe freshman, she has been prominently featured on Marvel Comics pages over the past decade.

In the comics, Chavez possesses the unique ability to travel through the Multiverse via her star portals. This defining power is set to translate to the big screen, as director Sam Raimi previously revealed that Strange will have "to learn from a kid" how to navigate the concept he knows frighteningly little about.

Her power set is not the only thing Marvel Studios is adapting straight from the page. Chavez's LGBTQIA+ lineage from the comics will also be featured in the film, which stirred controversy overseas.

Despite international requests, Disney refused to remove scenes that acknowledged Chavez's "two moms," a decision that the film's leading man is firmly behind.

Cumberbatch Backs Doctor Strange 2

Marvel Studios
Marvel

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness leading man Benedict Cumberbatch defended Disney's choice to keep an LGBTQIA+ scene in the upcoming Marvel Studios production.

Earlier this week, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia requested that Disney remove a "barely 12 second" moment from Doctor Strange 2, which featured Xochitl Gomez's America Chavez "talking about her moms." 

Speaking on the Multiverse of Madness press tour (via Reddit), Cumberbatch called Saudi Arabia's edit request an "expected disappointment" while also noting it is "out of step" with where the human species is currently at:

"It is, I’m afraid, an expected disappointment. We’ve come to know from those repressive regimes that their lack of tolerance is exclusionary to people who deserve to be, not only included, but celebrated for who they are and made to feel part of a society and a culture and not punished for their sexuality. It feels truly out of step with everything that we’ve experienced as a species, let alone where we’re at globally more as a culture, but frankly it’s just even more reason why this isn’t tokenism to include an LGBTQ+ community member."

Cumberbatch doubled down on his statement, emphasizing that Chavez is a character "from the comics" and was included in the film "not for the sake of diversity" but because of "how awesome" she is:

"This character is that from the comics. It’s not something we’ve created for the sake of diversity. We’ve included her because of how awesome she is as a character. And that’s just one aspect of her character and that’s all it should be, but sadly, it’s also now, politically, very charged. And I wish it wasn’t."

The Academy Award-nominated actor concluded by urging Hollywood to still "push for inclusion and equality:"

"I wish we could be having a normalized conversation about this where it wasn’t an issue but we’re not. So we still have to fight. We still have to push for inclusion and equality and I’m very glad in a small, but on a very big canvas, Marvel and Disney are doing that."

Marvel Studios is for Everyone

It remains to be seen if Doctor Strange 2 will play in Saudi Arabian cinemas, as the country's general supervisor of cinema classification clarified that the film had not been banned, but Disney and Benedict Cumberbatch's refusal to pivot is an obvious step in the right direction.

Beyond the insensitivity of censoring LGBTQIA+ themes, it outright changes the characters and consequently the continuity. Aside from the "two moms" line, America Chavez is also said to have her homosexuality acknowledged in the film. Cutting that would set a dangerous precedent that would significantly handcuff her character arc moving forward.

Love has always been a centerpiece of Marvel Studios' projects. It's the emotion that laid the groundwork for stories like WandaVision and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Removing the relationship between Scarlet Witch and Vision or Star-Lord and Gamora would drastically alter those aforementioned narratives. If Chavez's eventual relationship is as integral as past MCU love affairs, axing it internationally before it even begins would limit the extent of where her character could go.

Overseas issues with Marvel productions are nothing newShang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings as well as Eternals were also blocked from select international markets, yet still moved forward as financial successes. Expect the good doctor's sequel to be nothing less.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness hits theaters on May 6.