The release of the live-action film Barbie, starring Margot Robbie as the iconic doll, has ignited a firestorm of censorship and controversy in several countries. As the film champions self-acceptance, diversity, and humour, it simultaneously finds itself at odds with various nations such as Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and Kuwait. Barbie has faced a severe ban in these countries. Let’s find out why?
Promotion Of Non-Traditional Gender Roles Is The Major Reason For This Ban
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Barbie, which made its global debut on July 21, 2023, has garnered praise from critics and audiences alike for its empowering themes and captivating charm. Yet, this reception sharply contrasts with the sentiments in the Middle East, where conservative values hold sway. It has been banned for allegedly challenging gender norms and questioning established family structures.
Critics argue that Barbie’s portrayal of gender roles, especially those of Barbie and her counterpart Ken, veers from traditional norms. It has portrayed views that are unsettling to some conservative groups and religious leaders. Concerns are raised that the film’s portrayal of non-traditional family dynamics and the questioning of marriage’s significance may clash with local religious beliefs and cultural norms. It has the potential to influence young viewers in ways incongruent with their faith.
Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and Kuwait have each responded to the film’s perceived challenges by banning its screening in cinemas. In Saudi Arabia, the culture ministry’s announcement on August 9 cited violations of laws and values, asserting that certain scenes within the film mocked the sanctity of marriage and family, and insulted Islamic beliefs. A stern warning of legal repercussions came out for those attempting to show or distribute the film. Similarly, Lebanon’s culture minister, Mohammad Mortada, ordered measures to prevent the film’s screening, citing concerns over the content.
Contrasting Beliefs In The Countries
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The decision to ban Barbie has elicited a mixed array of reactions from the public. While some support the ban, deeming the film inappropriate for their society, others view it as a curtailment of artistic freedom and expression. The contentious debate underscores the ongoing struggle between maintaining cultural integrity and embracing evolving social narratives.
The Barbie ban is not an isolated incident within the region. Saudi Arabia and Lebanon have previously censored or restricted films for similar reasons. Movies like Bohemian Rhapsody, Rocketman, The Danish Girl, Beauty and the Beast, Wonder Woman, and Call Me by Your Name have all faced varying levels of censorship or restrictions. The clash between artistic expression and cultural preservation continues with Barbie.
Cover Image Courtesy: Warner Bros.