Barbie’s Middle East premiere postponed amid content controversy


MIDDLE EAST:  Much-hyped Barbie has faced censorship challenges in the Middle East as regional exhibitor Vox Cinemas, Warner Bros.’ local distribution partner, postponed the movie’s release to August 31.

According to the international media, globally acclaimed Barbie was initially slated to be released in the Middle East on July 19, two days before its US release, but the delay came as Warner Bros. worked on edits requested by censors concerning alleged LGBTQ content.

The media reports said that the requested cuts may not be approved from the studio, leading to the likelihood that the movie will not be released in some Middle East territories including Saudi Arabia, the region’s prominent market, and possibly others such as the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Egypt.

Meanwhile, Saudi film and entertainment platform Movsto tweeted that Barbie will not be shown in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, the UAE, Egypt, and Bahrain.

Read More: Punjab delays Barbie over “objectionable content”

In the Greta Gerwig’s directorial venture Barbie, several openly LGBTQ actors including Kate McKinnon, Hari Nef, Alexandra Shipp, and Scott Evans have appeared as part of the cast. However, the movie seemed to have limited content explicitly addressing queer themes, reported the international media.

Lead actress Margot Robbie, in an interview with British LGBTQ magazine Attitude, said, “The dolls lack specific sexual orientations in the movie,”.

Earlier, various Barbie movies designed for home video had faced bans in Saudi Arabia due to suggestive clothing and the depiction of women in non-traditional gender roles.

Movies involving several themes including sexual diversity and other religious themes in the Middle East typically undergo censorship cuts. If studios refuse to comply with suggested edits, the films are banned. Recently, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse faced a similar fate in June, not receiving approval for release in Saudi Arabia and the UAE likely due to a scene featuring a poster with the transgender flag and the message “Protect Trans Lives.”

Despite the challenges, Barbie has become a global blockbuster, already surpassing $700 million at the worldwide box office and poised to reach the $1 billion milestone during its run.

Meanwhile, no official statement has been made by Warner Bros. and Vox Cinemas regarding the release of the movie in the Middle East.

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