Kuwait and Lebanon have banned the blockbuster film 'Barbie,' directed by Greta Gerwig and starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling. Their decision is based on concerns over the movie's content surrounding the LGBTQ+ community. Kuwait's state news agency 'Kuna' stated that the bans were enacted to safeguard 'public ethics and social traditions,' without specifying further details. In Lebanon, Culture Minister Mohammad Mortada claimed the movie 'promotes homosexuality and sexual transformation,' leading to the film's referral to the General Security's censorship committee.
The film, which has shattered box office records globally, centers around the iconic dolls and has achieved remarkable success, recently crossing the $1 billion mark in worldwide box office gross. This milestone is especially significant as it marks the first time a film directed by a woman has achieved such financial success.
The bans in both Kuwait and Lebanon have ignited controversy. Lebanon, once viewed as a relative haven of tolerance in the Middle East, is experiencing increasing pressure on its LGBTQ+ community due to the rise of influential Islamist and far-right Christian groups. While the film doesn't overtly depict same-sex relationships, its message of inclusion and gender equality has stirred controversy in a region where homosexuality is often taboo. Lebanon's history of shifting attitudes toward LGBTQ+ rights adds complexity to the situation. Despite hosting the region's first gay pride week in 2017, the country has experienced increasing crackdowns on LGBTQ+ communities in recent years.
The bans raise questions about the film's potential release in other Middle Eastern countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain, where conservative values clash with its message of inclusion and gender equality. Additionally, the bans align with a pattern of censorship within the region, as seen with the sudden removal of 'Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse' due to a transgender poster and other similar instances.