Lebanon and Kuwait have taken similar stances on Warner Bros. hit movie “Barbie,” with Lebanon’s Culture Minister Mohammad Mortada banning the film from cinemas, claiming it “promotes homosexuality” and contradicts religious values. Similarly, Kuwait has also banned the film, alongside the supernatural horror movie “Talk to Me,” citing the need to protect “public ethics and social traditions.”
Lebanon has historically been considered more liberal in the Middle East, even hosting a gay pride week in 2017. However, tensions have risen as conservative voices, like Minister Mortada, enact bans on events associated with the LGBT community. Mortada’s criticism of “Barbie” centers around its alleged promotion of homosexuality, which he claims undermines family values and faith-based morals.
Conversely, two major Middle East markets, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, have allowed the release of “Barbie.” Saudi Arabia, which only lifted a 35-year ban on cinemas in 2017, which forced residents to destinations such as Bahrain and the U.A.E. for tourist trips “simply for the sake of watching movies.” This trend has now been reversed with one Kuwaiti blogger even providing information on social media for moviegoers looking to cross the border to watch “Barbie” in Saudi cinemas.
Who would have predicted at the beginning of 2023 that “Barbie” would serve to highlight Saudi Arabia’s burgeoning cinema industry and underscore the evolving cinematic landscape in the Middle East.