In an unexpected turn of events, the highly anticipated animated film, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, has been barred from screening in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a week before its planned debut in the Middle Eastern nation.
The superhero saga, which has garnered global acclaim and raked in approximately $400 million worldwide within just twelve days of its release, has failed to clear the UAE’s stringent censorship protocols.
As reported, speculation suggests that the film may have been restricted due to the presence of a scene featuring a background poster that shows the transgender flag with the words “Protect Trans Lives”.
The UAE has a history of stringent laws regarding sexual orientation and gender identity. Same-sex relations are criminalised, and the country’s legal framework also takes a stern stance against transgender individuals’ gender expression. The Human Dignity Trust highlights that convictions in such cases can be severe, including the theoretical possibility of capital punishment.
These laws are enshrined in the Criminal Codes of several Emirates, such as Abu Dhabi, where “unnatural sex with another person” is considered illegal, and Dubai, where acts of “sodomy” are prohibited. Additionally, Sharia law, which operates in tandem with the UAE’s legal system, prescribes stringent penalties, including the death sentence. However, there is no recorded evidence of such a penalty being enacted against LGBTQ+ individuals to date.
Transgender individuals also face potential legal action under the UAE’s Federal Penal Code of 1987, which criminalises a “male disguising as a female”, and can result in up to one year of imprisonment and a financial penalty.
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is not the first cinematic creation to face such an impediment in the UAE. In the previous year, Disney and Pixar’s space adventure, Lightyear, was also prohibited due to a scene that portrayed a same-sex kiss between two characters.
Moreover, it is important to note that the UAE is not alone in this regard. Other Middle Eastern or Muslim countries, including Malaysia, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia, have also withheld Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse from their cinemas.
This ban serves as a reminder of the ongoing tension between global cinematic productions and the cultural and legal constraints within specific regions. As the film continues to thrive internationally, its absence in the UAE and several other Middle Eastern nations highlights the divergent values and regulations across different parts of the world.
Image Credit: Felix Mooneeram on Unsplash