The highly-anticipated Barbie movie from Warner Brothers is experiencing a postponement in its premiere in the Middle East. Vox Cinemas, the main distributor of the film in the region, has decided to move the original premiere date of July 19 to August 3. This delay is due to the studio and distributor working on editing the movie to meet the requirements set by the Middle East censors. The need for these edits is allegedly related to LGBTQ-related narration and dialogue in the film.
Approval for the requested cuts by Middle Eastern censors is uncertain, which raises the possibility that “Barbie” may not be released in certain Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Egypt. A tweet from Saudi film platform Movsto even suggested that the film will not be shown in these countries, as well as Qatar and Bahrain. However, neither Warner Brothers nor Vox Media have commented on this claim.
Censorship standards in the Middle East dictate that movies containing explicit sexual scenes or themes, homosexuality, LGBTQ depictions, or religious matters must be edited before distribution in the region. Failure to comply with these standards can result in a film being banned. A similar situation occurred with “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” in Saudi Arabia and the UAE due to a poster promoting “Protect Trans Lives” in the background.
There are theoretical challenges to the release of “Barbie” in the Middle East as well, even if it doesn’t explicitly include queer content. Its nature and potential challenge to traditional male authority might present obstacles in the region.
Aside from the LGBTQ-related concerns, the film also faced controversy in several Asian countries due to a cartoon map shown in the trailers. This map featured dash lines near a depiction of China, which raised concerns in the Philippines that it implied support for China’s claims in the South China Sea. The Vietnamese government went as far as banning the film because of this map. However, Warner Brothers clarified that it was a child-like crayon drawing representing Barbie’s imaginary journey.
At this time, Warner Brothers has not released an official statement regarding the completion of edits that satisfy their Middle East distributors. The fate of the film’s release in the region remains uncertain.