'Barbie' faces backlash in Middle East over LGBTQ themes
The live-action film 'Barbie', starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, has been a global hit, grossing over $1 billion at the box office. However, the film has also sparked controversy in some parts of the Middle East, where it has been accused of promoting homosexuality and challenging traditional values.
Kuwait bans 'Barbie' and 'Talk to Me'
On Wednesday, Kuwait announced that it had banned 'Barbie' and another film, 'Talk to Me', a supernatural horror featuring a transgender actor. A spokesman for the Kuwaiti Ministry of Information said that the films "propagate ideas and beliefs that are alien to Kuwaiti society and public order", according to the official KUNA news agency.
The ministry said that the films violated the country's laws on "public ethics and social traditions", and that it was keen to protect the "moral values" of Kuwaitis.
Lebanon's culture minister calls for censorship
Meanwhile, in Lebanon, Culture Minister Mohammad Mortada also called for banning 'Barbie' from cinemas, saying that it "promotes homosexuality and sexual transformation" and "contradicts values of faith and morality" by diminishing the importance of the family unit.
Mortada said that the film "goes against moral and religious values in Lebanon, as it encourages perversity and gender transformation while calling for the rejection of patriarchy and ridiculing the role of mothers".
He asked the Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi to take action against the film, who in turn referred it to the censorship committee for review. The film was due to be screened in Lebanon from August 31.
Anti-LGBTQ campaign in Lebanon
The move to ban 'Barbie' comes amid a growing anti-LGBTQ campaign in Lebanon, spearheaded by the powerful Hezbollah armed group. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has said that homosexuality poses an "imminent danger" to Lebanon and should be "confronted". He also said that people engaged in homosexual acts should be "killed".
Lebanon was once considered as one of the most liberal countries in the Middle East, and was the first Arab country to hold a gay pride week in 2017. However, with the country facing economic and political turmoil, its tolerance seems to be eroding.
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Ayman Mhanna, executive director at the nonprofit civic Samir Kassir Foundation, told Reuters that the move to ban 'Barbie' was part of "a wave of bigotry".
"This is part of a broader campaign that is bringing together Hezbollah, the Christian far right, and other top religious leaders in a focused campaign against LGBT people," Mhanna said.
Other countries censor or ban 'Barbie'
'Barbie' has also faced censorship or bans in other countries for various reasons. Vietnam banned the film over a disputed map of the South China Sea that appeared in one scene. The Philippines allowed the film with blurred images of the map. Saudi Arabia and the UAE did not approve 'Barbie' for release, likely because of a scene that featured a "Protect Trans Lives" flag.
Movies that concern or contain sex, homosexuality and religious issues are routinely cut in the Middle East to comply with censorship rules. If studios are unwilling to make the adjustments suggested by censors, the films are banned from playing in theaters.
'Barbie', directed by Greta Gerwig, is based on the popular doll franchise created by Mattel. The film follows Barbie as she discovers her true identity and embarks on a journey of self-discovery with her friend Ken. The film has been praised by critics and audiences for its humor, charm and diversity.