The controversy surrounding the Barbie film and its impact on Arab society

The recently released Barbie film has caused uproar in the Arab world, with Kuwait banning the movie and Lebanon calling for a ban as well. The film has been accused of promoting homosexuality and undermining traditional societal values. However, it is still being shown in conservative countries such as Saudi Arabia. The film’s success at the box office, grossing over $1bn worldwide within weeks of its release, highlights the global influence of the Barbie franchise.

Kuwait’s decision to ban the film is based on the desire to protect “public ethics”, according to the state news agency. Lafi al-Subaiei, the head of Kuwait’s board of film classification, stated that the usual practice is to request the removal of scenes that do not align with the country’s culture. However, in cases where the film promotes behavior deemed unacceptable by the state, an outright ban is imposed. The Kuwaiti Ministry of Information has criticized the film for spreading ideas and beliefs that are considered alien to Kuwaiti society and public order.

In Lebanon, the film faces strong opposition from the culture minister and other religious and political figures. The culture minister accused the movie of promoting homosexuality, transsexuality, and questioning the necessity of traditional family structures. He called on the interior ministry to take action and ban the film. The censorship committee has been asked to review the movie, and support for the ban comes from the Shia Islamist movement Hezbollah.

The controversy surrounding the Barbie film reflects a broader campaign against the LGBTQ+ community and an increase in religious conservatism in Lebanon. Ayman Mhanna, executive director of the Samir Kassir Foundation, a Lebanese rights organization, describes it as “a wave of bigotry” that involves Hezbollah, the Christian far right, and other religious leaders targeting the LGBTQ+ community. Homosexuality has been labeled as an “imminent danger” to Lebanese society by Hezbollah’s leader.

On an international level, the film has faced censorship in Vietnam for featuring a map displaying a contested Chinese territorial claim in the South China Sea. This indicates that the controversy extends beyond the Arab world and encompasses geopolitical sensitivities as well.

The impact of the Barbie film controversy is significant for both society and the entertainment industry. It highlights the clash between traditional values and evolving societal norms, particularly regarding gender roles and sexual orientation. The ban in Kuwait and the calls for a ban in Lebanon demonstrate the challenges faced by movies that challenge established norms and push the boundaries of social acceptance.

Additionally, this controversy brings attention to the power of popular culture and its ability to shape public discourse. The success of the Barbie film, despite the backlash, emphasizes the global influence of the franchise and its impact on children’s perceptions of identity and individuality.

While the controversy surrounding the Barbie film continues, it is important to approach the discussion with sensitivity and respect for differing opinions. Society must navigate the balance between freedom of expression and the preservation of cultural values. Dialogue and understanding are essential to address conflicting perspectives and find common ground amidst diverse societies.

As the controversy unfolds, it will be interesting to observe the long-term effects on social attitudes towards gender, sexuality, and the role of entertainment in shaping cultural narratives. The Barbie film has sparked a heated debate, shedding light on the complexities of cultural identity and the challenges faced by filmmakers in navigating these sensitive topics. Ultimately, it is up to individuals and societies to determine the impact and future of movies like Barbie and their ability to challenge societal norms.