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Film and TV

To the surprise of literally nobody, Russia has censored the queer character in Disney’s Onward

Josh Milton February 28, 2020
Lena Waithe Onward

Lena Waithe will make Disney history as the studio's first openly lesbian character in upcoming movie Onward. (Disney/Karwai Tang/Getty Images)

Disney and Pixar enthusiasts hoping to pack Russian theatres to watch Onward may notice a minor difference in viewing. A single word difference, to be exact.

Russian distributors appear to have censored the film’s queer character, which would have been the first LGBT+ character in a movie by the beloved animation studio.

The fantasy film introduces a cyclops cop named Specter, voiced by Lena Waithe, who is a lesbian.

Russia removes one word from Onward that makes all the difference. 

While not a main character in Onward, her drive-by appearance sees her pulling the protagonists aside and having a brief chat.

“My girlfriend’s daughter got me pulling my hair out,” she says.

“It just kind of happened,” Kori Rae, a producer of Onward, told Yahoo of Waithe’s casual comment.

“The scene, when we wrote it, was kind of fitting and it opens up the world a little bit, and that’s what we wanted.”

However fleeting the character is, the move to include a character attracted to someone of the same sex is a seismic leap for the studio.

But Russian audiences will see the scene but with a minor difference, according to Kinoposik, as “girlfriend’s” will be changed to “partner’s”. The gender-neutral term will, as a result, erase the sexuality of Specter.

Disney representatives in Russia declined to comment on Kinopoisk’s comment request.

Onward is, at the least, the third film to be censored by Russian film distributors. Scenes involving same-sex relations in Rocketman, the Elton John biopic, were removed for Russian audiences.

Similarly, a single word was changed in Avengers: Endgame to dial down the implication that one character went on a date with someone of the same sex.

The ‘Gay Prohibition’ in Russia.

St Petersburg Pride in Russia
LGBT campaigners in Russia (Photo by OLGA MALTSEVA/AFP/Getty Images)

Movie monitoring comes years into a Russia where queer citizens are severely restricted and surveilled.

Russia banned the prohibition of homosexuality in 2013, codifying into law decades of discrimination, persecution and worse that queer people have faced.

Lawmakers at the State Duma, the lower hour of Parliament, voted 388-1 for the bill that silenced the nation.

Furthermore, the legislation has acted as a central plank of president Vladimir Putin’s nationalist campaign across the country. One of centralising Christian values as the government draws closer to the Russian Orthodox Church.

More: Disney, Lena Waithe, Onward, Russia

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