As the Walt Disney Company clashes with Governor Ron DeSantis over Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill—a law forbidding the discussion of sexual orientation in elementary school—a fresh controversy is making it crystal clear that the Mouse House intends to be a refuge for the ever-expanding LGBTQIAP+ alphabet and agenda.
With the upcoming release of the Marvel sequel Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has requested an edited version of the film for its theaters. There is reportedly a brief reference to the background of a lesbian character, America Chavez, who grew up with “two moms,” and, as is common in conservative Muslim countries, films that present themes or subject matter that are against the moral code of Islam are either banned or edited.
Disney has staunchly refused the edit request from the Kingdom’s supervisor of cinema classification, turning their back on their financial victory in Saudi Arabian cinema when their 2018 picture from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Black Panther, became the first theatrical release in Saudi Arabia after a 35-year ban on such entertainment. While Disney conceded to edit the same-sex kiss in its 2019 Star Wars train wreck The Rise of Skywalker for Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries, with the political hill Disney has chosen to die on, those days of compromise are apparently over, and The Eternals—with their homosexual characters—did not stream in Saudi Arabia.
Asked to comment on the current dispute, the movie’s lead, Benedict Cumberbatch said:
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.
While it’s not surprising to see Disney and their woke disciples dig in their heels and proselytize over this matter (they can certainly afford to), what is more striking about this spat is the so-called intolerance of Islam in this particular vein versus the manifest, and equally expected and disappointing, tolerance of the Christian West and even Catholic moviegoers. Using Cumberbatch’s language, if there is anything “out of step with everything we’ve experienced as a species” it is the homosexual lifestyle, but it is hard to find anything like a unified Catholic response or stance against it.
The normalization of this perversity is in high gear, presenting itself both surreptitiously and shamelessly before our children in advertisements and movies. We can only expect more scenes like Captain America encouraging a gay man to get a date with another man, as he did in an Avengers chapter, and more rumors like the heroine, Valkyrie, winning herself a queen when she becomes queen of Asgard in the forthcoming Thor movie.
It is a hard thing to suggest drawing inspiration or example from a Muslim quarter; but when it comes to cultural corruption, Catholics should be just as staunch. But the softening of the Church into what has been called “JFK Catholicism,” where the Faith has no palpable influence or effect on public life, is in full swing in America. Partially as a result of hostilities against Catholic immigrants by Protestants, there exist even today two predominant trends in Catholic identity in the United States that are equally inimical to a true apostolic spirit of evangelization.
One of these is characterized by a fortress-mentality, or isolationism, by which Catholics wall themselves away from the world to keep their Catholicism safe from scrutiny and censure. The other tends toward the opposite extreme, whereby Catholics are not distinguished whatsoever in society by their Faith through a species of assimilation, in which the Faith in no way affects the manner in which one functions in the workaday world. Both, of course, are entirely averse to the spirit of apostleship, a spirit that is bold and fearless, even unto death—unto martyrdom.
Islam is not so mousy, and sharia law, in which homosexuality is a capital crime, demands that Muslim morals are defended, even when it comes to movies. And, while Catholics do not and cannot condone all the morality or the doctrines of Islam, it is not wrong to acknowledge what is right when we see it, no matter who is doing it, and strive to do likewise in our own sphere and by our own Faith.
When it comes to entertainment especially, Catholics are, for the most part, as lax as secular society. That was not always the case, however. After Colin Clive uttered his mad crescendo of “It’s alive!” in 1931’s Frankenstein, he screamed a line that censorship boards judged as blasphemous. A thunderclap was added to obscure him raving, “In the Name of God, now I know what it feels like to be God!” Shocking.
What is even more shocking is that there was ever such sensitivity in Hollywood. It was there because of audience’s sensitivity and morality and general dedication to dignity. The culture was cleaner then and the entertainment industry responded in kind, delivering what people would deem acceptable. Art was governed by common decency and kept from causing scandal or moral deterioration. When that governance goes, however, anything goes—and thus the cinematic madness of today. Entertainment reflects and affects culture, and movies should not leave a message of muddied morality up for interpretation by the amoral masses.
As a good storyteller, Flannery O’Connor demonstrates that good art does not tell, but shows—and Disney knows that strategy well. Art should mirror truth, as Hamlet says; and we now are seeing what happens with art (if Marvel movies can be considered art) in a world that has lost its moral sense, its sense of truth. When truth is obscured or twisted, people become conditioned to falsehood; and in the current climate, we cannot presuppose the moral integrity to discern right from wrong. When the moral code is lost, art—even pop art—becomes dangerous if it has devious intent.
So, is there a lesson to be learned here from the intolerance of Islam? Yes and no. Islam is in its foundation an intolerant religion, which, in general, is why it is a false religion. It refuses to accept the true nature of the Divine. God is a God of life, love, self-sacrifice, and self-revelation. He is a God of condescension. Islam bases its faith not on the familiar interaction of God and man, but on the cold, impossible distance of God. In Islam, there is nothing that unites man and God, and in this creed, they reject God. The God of Islam is an isolated God, illuminating the spiritual world by His light alone as He reigns on high, alone, and leaves his followers equally alone and living lives of intolerant discipline. The God of Islam is forbidding, and Muslims are similarly forbidding.
Islam may be mad in many ways—perhaps in most ways—but Catholics should consider how they might pull a page from the Muslim playbook when it comes to tolerating, or not tolerating, the flagrant presentation and integration of immorality in society. The banner of “Tolerance” is one that flies proudly over the United States in a way that it doesn’t in Saudi Arabia. Though a degree of tolerance is at times commendable, too much of it can be suicidal, and this is something that Muslims still recognize. In the effort to accept, affirm, and acclimate, there exists a need to preserve cultural identity, rationality, spiritual integrity, and the natural order.
The worldly “virtue” of tolerance is stranger than anything in a Dr. Strange movie. It is a tolerance that can and will compromise nature, society, and the soul, and undermine culture by surrendering to the relativism at large nowadays. Such tolerance should not be tolerated. Catholics would be far better off being branded as intolerant as Muslims in their rejection of all-embracing, melting-pot ideologies. If we don’t find the Catholic mode of charitable yet strong intolerance for evil, we will only allow a very real “multiverse of madness” to continue taking its strange stranglehold.
[Image Credit: Marvel]