Controversy Surrounds Middle East Premiere of “Barbie” Film

The upcoming release of the movie “Barbie” in the Middle East has sparked controversy in Lebanon and Kuwait. The film, starring Kate McKinnon and Hari Nef, has raised concerns in these countries about its treatment of gender and sexuality themes. Lebanon’s Culture Minister argues that the movie promotes homosexuality and sexual transformation, while Kuwait believes that the film clashes with their societal norms.

Lebanon, a country that had previously shown some acceptance of homosexuality, is now considering banning “Barbie.” This decision has sparked discussions about the film’s availability in the rest of the Middle East. Kuwait has already announced a ban, stating that the movie promotes unfamiliar ideas and beliefs that go against their public order.

Lebanon’s Culture Minister, Mohammad Mortada, claims that the film contradicts moral and faith-based values by endorsing homosexuality and sexual transformation. His proposal for a ban is currently under review by Lebanon’s General Security agency, responsible for censorship decisions.

This situation in Lebanon highlights the growing influence of Islamist and far-right Christian groups, which is putting pressure on the LGBTQ+ community. Throughout much of the Arab world, homosexuality is considered sinful by followers of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, and LGBTQ+ individuals have faced legal consequences in some cases.

“Barbie” may not explicitly feature sexual content, but it does include openly gay and transgender actresses. The LGBTQ+ community has generally embraced the film, although some criticize it for promoting a heteronormative narrative.

Despite its controversy, “Barbie” has already achieved great success, grossing over $1 billion within a month of its initial release in other markets. The film, produced by Margot Robbie and directed and co-written by Greta Gerwig, has surpassed previous records set by the Harry Potter series.

The movie is set to premiere in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain shortly. However, these countries, like much of the Middle East, criminalize homosexuality and view LGBTQ+ advocacy as a challenge to societal norms.

The decision to move the regional premiere of “Barbie” forward suggests that censorship concerns were addressed. In the Middle East, films often face delays to allow for necessary edits or content assessments by review committees.

In a similar case, the film “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” was unexpectedly removed from cinema listings across the Middle East due to a scene featuring a transgender poster. While Lebanon did not officially ban the film, regional distributors made the decision not to screen it. On the other hand, Marvel’s “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” featuring a lesbian couple, was shown in Lebanon despite being banned in other Arab nations. Likewise, “Eternals,” which includes the first gay kiss in the Marvel film universe, faced censorship but was still shown in Lebanon, while it was banned in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE.

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