Kuwait has announced a ban on the Warner Brothers film “Barbie”, citing the need to protect “public ethics and social traditions.” This decision comes shortly after a Lebanese minister requested a similar ban in Lebanon, alleging that the movie promotes homosexuality.
Late on Wednesday, a spokesman for the Kuwaiti Ministry of Information stated that the film “promulgates ideas and beliefs that are alien to Kuwaiti society and public order,” according to the official KUNA news agency. In addition to “Barbie”, the Kuwaiti ministry has also prohibited the Australian supernatural horror film “Talk to Me” on similar grounds.
In Lebanon, Culture Minister Mohammad Mortada made a parallel announcement on Wednesday, requesting the Lebanese interior ministry to take steps to prevent the film from being shown in the country. He accused the film of promoting homosexuality and transsexuality, undermining parental roles, and questioning the necessity of marriage and family.
The Lebanese Interior Minister, Bassam Mawlawi, subsequently directed the country’s censorship committee to review the film and make a recommendation. This comes amid a growing anti-LGBTQ campaign in Lebanon, spearheaded by the powerful Hezbollah armed group.
“Barbie,” starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, has been widely anticipated by LGBTQ communities worldwide, even though the film does not contain overt references to same-sex relationships or queer themes. It is the first film by a solo female director to surpass the billion-dollar benchmark.
The film’s ban is part of a broader pattern of increasing scrutiny and censorship. It has already faced bans in Vietnam over a contentious scene involving a fictitious world map. The Philippines allowed the screening but requested blurring the map of a disputed sea area. In Pakistan’s Punjab province, the release was delayed over undisclosed “objectionable content”.
Lafy Al-Subei’e, head of Kuwait’s cinema censorship committee, told KUNA that foreign movies are often subject to censoring of scenes that contradict public ethics. However, if a film carries alien concepts or unacceptable behavior, the committee may decide to bar the film altogether.
Gulf Arab states, including Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia, have previously censored films containing LGBTQ references. Interestingly, “Barbie” continues to be shown in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain despite the controversy.
Ayman Mhanna, executive director at the nonprofit civic Samir Kassir Foundation, described the move to ban the film as part of “a wave of bigotry” that has brought together various factions against LGBT people.
This decision to ban “Barbie” underscores the complex and often contentious relationship between cinema, social values, and politics in the region, and it may spark further debate and division in the international community.
Image Credit: AP