Xochitl Gomez is set to bring the LGBTQ Marvel character, America Chavez, to life on the big screen for the very first time in the upcoming film Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, which premieres on May 6. The part has been three years in the making for 16-year-old Gomez, who is best known for roles in Netflix’s The Baby-Sitter’s Club and Gentefied. It is a significant show of progress for Latinx and LGBTQ representation in mainstream films however it’s already drawing some controversy. America is Marvel’s first Latin American LGBTQ+ character to star in an ongoing series and this is the character’s live-action film debut.
The character of America Chavez is openly gay in the comics and has been portrayed as such in various animated TV series (though she’s not explicitly stated as so in the Doctor Strange sequel). This led Saudi Arabia and a number of other Arab countries to ban the film entirely. Specifically, the censors have reportedly taken issue with the mention of the character’s “two moms.” Saudi Arabian censors requested Disney make changes to it for release in their country but, Variety reported, Disney has opted not to at the time this was published.
Similarly, both Marvel’s Eternals and West Side Story were banned in Saudi Arabia for depicting a same-sex kiss and transgender character, respectively. Disney also refused to make changes to those films.
“This character was important to me for many personal reasons, but also because it was important that we make the effort to have every kid in this world represented in our universe, and she represents both the LGBTQ+ and Latinx community,” Marvel Studios executive, Victoria Alonso said in statement on Marvel.com.
While Marvel is committed to progress, it seems that some fans of the franchise have taken to social media to voice their discontent as Gomez has evidently been dealing with online harassment. Fans of the franchise have taken to her Instagram comments spewing hate and suggesting that she herself is at fault for the film being banned in certain countries.
Interestingly, they seem to take issue with the character of America Chavez herself being the reason they won’t be able to see the movie, despite the fact that her storyline is essential to the film’s plot. It would be a different film altogether without America Chavez, who is one of the move’s most prominent figures. Thankfully, many fans came to Gomez’s defense, pointing out that she is not responsible for Disney or Marvel’s choices.
The film is a sequel to 2016’s Doctor Strange directed by Sam Raimi and as the follow-up to Spider-Man: No Way Home, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is one of Marvel’s most anticipated feature film releases of the year, and is already getting rave reviews. The first 20 minutes of the film was shown at CinemaCon in Las Vegas earlier this week, with the folks over at Gizmodo calling it out for “dynamic action, emotional moments, good character development,”
“It’s so cool that fans will get to see a young person in the middle of a big story like this, and know that things that happen in our kid lives are important because it shapes who they’ll become when they’re older as adults,” Gomez told Marvel.com. “It’s exciting that we will hopefully get to see more of how things play out for America in the future.”