Eternals' gay kiss makes it first Marvel film to receive M18 rating in Singapore

This article contains mild spoilers for the movie Eternals.

Singapore has given a rating of M18 to the latest Marvel film, Eternals, because of a scene with a gay kiss, making it the first movie from the ultra-popular superhero franchise to not receive a PG or PG13 rating. (We know the Deadpool films were M18, but they weren't part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe canon.)

Eternals, the 26th film in the MCU series, will be released in theatres in Singapore on 4 November – check out our review here. The movie features a group of super-powered immortal beings who have lived on Earth for thousands of years protecting humans from man-eating monsters called Deviants. It was passed by Singapore's media regulatory agency, the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), without cuts.

Phastos, one of the titular Eternals, played by Brian Tyree Henry, is one of the first gay main characters in the MCU. In the movie, he is portrayed with a husband and a child who they both care for. The LGBT couple kiss onscreen in a scene, marking the first same-sex kiss featuring a main character in a major family-oriented film from Walt Disney Studios.

The M18 rating restricts audiences to those above the age of 18. IMDA considered the scenes with queer characters "more appropriate under the M18 Classification Guidelines which allow 'non-explicit depictions of mild sexual activity or acts of intimacy (e.g. kissing and hugging) between persons of the same gender'."

Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry) in Eternals. (Photo: Marvel Studios)
Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry) in Eternals is Marvel's first prominent gay character in the franchise. (Photo: Marvel Studios)

An IMDA spokesperson told Yahoo Life SEA in a statement, "The Eternals has been classified M18 [Some Mature Content] for theatrical release in Singapore. The film contains homosexual references. Under the Film Classification Guidelines, such depictions would be contained under the M18 classification. IMDA has advised the film distributor of the classification rating and film distributors may then decide if they wish to edit segments that have contributed to higher ratings, to allow commercial access by a larger audience."

Representatives from Disney, Marvel Studios' parent company, declined to comment for this story.

In 2008, MediaCorp TV Channel 5 was fined by the then Media Development Authority for an episode that "normalise(d) and promote(d) a gay lifestyle. The agency said at the time, "This is in breach of the Free-to-Air TV Programme Code which disallows programmes that promote, justify or glamourise gay lifestyles."

In 2019, Disney also cut a same-sex kiss between two minor female characters for the theatrical release of Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker in Singapore to preserve its PG13 rating.

However, Eternals' director Chloe Zhao said that she and Marvel had discussed the matter and did not wish to censor the gay scenes in the movie for international audiences.

Disney has been criticised for the lack of LGBTQ characters in its movies. Marvel is attempting to address such criticism, having promised that upcoming shows in Phase 4 of the MCU will feature prominent queer superheroes. The recent Disney+ series, Loki, revealed that the Norse god, played by Tom Hiddleston, is bisexual, while Tessa Thompson's Valkyrie, who is also bisexual in the comics, will have a female love interest in Thor: Love And Thunder.

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