Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story is the latest film to be banned from distribution in a number of Gulf region countries. Per Variety, the musical remake has been banned from distribution in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait, with some countries refusing distribution outright, and others balking after Disney refused to make censor-requested cuts to Spielberg’s film.
The primary sticking point with the film’s release appears to be the character of Anybody’s, a transgender character portrayed by non-binary actor Iris Menas. All of the countries involved have a long history of censoring content shown to be positive toward LGBTQ+ representation; while there’s nothing especially racy about Spielberg’s take on the Broadway classic—it carries a PG-13 rating from the U.S.’s MPAA—the mere existence of a trans character was likely enough to initiate the bans.
(See also Marvel’s Eternals, which, like West Side Story, was produced by Disney, and which received pushback in many of these same countries for its depictions of Brian Tyree Henry’s Phastos, who shares an on-screen same-sex kiss with his spouse in the film.)
It’s not clear how many other governments, including notoriously homophobic Russia’s, will also push back on Spielberg’s film. The biggest question surrounding West Side Story is likely to be China, which has had a long history of cracking down hard on LGBTQ+-positive content. (It’s not for nothing that Disney has gone the entire year without releasing any of its films in the country, including any of its big-budget MCU efforts.) It’s not clear at present if West Side Story will be getting any kind of distribution in the country and its massive film market; Disney’s recent refusal to cut content from its movies over the objections of national governments suggests that such a release would be pretty unlikely, though.