Angelina Jolie is speaking out against countries banning her Marvel Cinematic Universe tentpole “Eternals” because it includes the franchise’s first openly gay superhero (and a gay kiss to go along with it). News broke the day before the “Eternals” U.S. opening that Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar had banned the film reportedly due to its gay content. Homosexuality is still illegal across the Gulf. Even just a one-line reference to a lesbian relationship got Pixar’s “Onward” banned from Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia last year.
“I’m sad for [those audiences]. And I’m proud of Marvel for refusing to cut those scenes out,” Jolie told Australia’s News.com about the ban. “I still don’t understand how we live in a world today where there’s still [people who] would not see the family Phastos has and the beauty of that relationship and that love. How anybody is angry about it, threatened by it, doesn’t approve or appreciate it is ignorant.”
Phastos is the the openly gay Eternal and is played in the film by “Atlanta” favorite Brian Tyree Henry. The superhero is married to Ben (Haaz Sleiman), and the two share a kiss during one scene in the film. Disney and Marvel reportedly refused to make edits to the film when asked to do so by the film boards of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar.
Zhao previously told IndieWire that discussions had taken place with Marvel and Disney about not cutting the film to appease censors around the world. The filmmaker said at the time, “I don’t know all the details, but I do believe discussions were had and there’s a big desire from Marvel and myself — we talked about this — to not change the cut of the movie. Fingers crossed.”
Introducing the MCU’s first openly gay superhero was already “written into the story” before Zhao signed on as director. In the film, Phastos learns to love humanity again once his family is threatened by the emergence of the villainous Deviants. In her IndieWire interview, Zhao said that getting the chance to tell this particular narrative thread of the movie with a gay character made it all the more special.
“Eternals” is now playing in theaters nationwide.