Lebanon, Kuwait Poised to Ban ‘Barbie’

Lebanon, once thought of as among the most liberal parts of the Middle East, is poised to ban global hit movie “Barbie.” More conservative Kuwait said Wednesday that it had gone ahead with a ban due to its promotion of homosexuality.

Lebanon’s culture minister Mohammad Mortada said on Wednesday that the Warner Bros. film was found to “promote homosexuality and sexual transformation” and “contradicts values of faith and morality” by diminishing the importance of the family unit.

“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 ridiculizing the role of mothers,” said Mortada.

“Based on Mortada’s move, Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi in turn asked General Security’s censorship committee, which falls under the interior ministry and is traditionally responsible for censorship decisions, to review the film and give its recommendation,” the Reuters news agency reported.

Variety has reached out to Warner Bros. for comment.

The film was originally scheduled to debut in the Middle East on July 19, two days before landing in the rest of the world’s multiplexes. It now looks to go ahead in some Middle East markets, including the biggest Saudi Arabia, at the end of August.

The release date was initially moved to Aug. 10 and has now been pushed back to Aug. 31, after local censors suggested edits allegedly pertaining to LGBTQ-related narration and dialogue in “Barbie.”
“Barbie,” starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, has already generated $1.03 billion at the global box office, including $468 million in North America.

Lebanon has a long history of religious and sexual tolerance in a region known to be conservative. And it was the first Arab country to hold a gay pride week, in 2017. But with the country enduring a period of economic and political chaos that position may now be changing.

Malawi, who is backed by the Shi’ite armed group Hezbollah, and Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah have both spoken recently on LGBT matters. Mawlawi last year banned events “promoting sexual perversion.” Nasrallah has said that homosexuality poses an “imminent danger” to Lebanon and should be “confronted.” People engaged in homosexual acts should be “killed,” he said.

Movies that concern or contain sex, homosexuality and religious issues are routinely cut in the Middle East to comply with censorship rules. If a studio is unwilling to make the adjustments suggested by censors, the films are banned from playing in theaters. Most recently, Sony’s summer blockbuster “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” was not approved for release in Saudi and the UAE likely because of a scene that featured a “Protect Trans Lives” flag.

Kuwait is understood to have banned supernatural horror film “Talk to Me” because of the appearance of a transsexual actor. Its state news agency said that it had banned “Barbie” and “Talk to Me” in order to protect “public ethics and social traditions.”

Vietnam banned the film for showing a map that it alleged depicted China’s illegal territorial claims.

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