‘West Side Story’ Banned in The Middle East Due to the Inclusion of a Transgender Character

Disney and 20th Century’s West Side Story is garnering critical acclaim, but there is one region that won’t be able to watch it on the big screen. Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of the classic musical has been banned in some countries in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait.

In Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, the film was not granted a release certificate, but in Qatar and Oman, Disney refused to comply with their censorship requirements.

The Middle East has strict censorship mandates in regards to sexuality, profanity and other scenes that go against their cultural and religious views. While West Side Story isn’t filled with obscene language, it is understood that the board had an issue with the character Anybodys, who is transgender and is played by non-binary actor Iris Menas.

The decision doesn’t exactly come as a surprise, with censors in the Middle East pulling Marvel’s Eternals from theatres after the movie portrayed the studios first openly same-sex couple. In the superhero flick, Phastos, played by Tyree Henry shares a kiss with his husband Ben (Haaz Sleiman).

In Australia, West Side Story is set to release in HOYTS Cinemas on Boxing Day. The latest instalment comes out 60 years after the original movie, also adapted from the 1957 Broadway show, and features Rachel Zegler and Ansel Elgort as star-crossed lovers.

Their relationship causes conflict among the warring street gangs, the Jets and the Sharks. Other cast members include Ariana DeBose as Anita, David Alvarez as Bernardo, Mike Faist as Riff, and Rita Moreno, who won an Oscar in 1961 for her portrayal of Anita in the 1961 film, as Valentina.

The movie, along with Steven Spielberg, has been receiving endless praise as the first reactions are starting to pour in.

The 1961 version had a number of glaring errors specifically in regards to representation, something Spielberg has made sure not to repeat. The Oscar-winning director canvassed students and professors from the University of Puerto Rico to make sure Puerto Ricans were represented accurately, even asking for their input.

Most recently, the prolific filmmaker has been applauded for his decision of foregoing English subtitles during scenes that feature conversations in Spanish.

West Side Story will be released in HOYTS Cinemas nationwide on December 26.

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