Kuwait bans 'Barbie' film over 'public ethics' concerns

A woman views a post published by the Kuwait Times on their official Instagram account reporting on the ban of the 2023 film "Barbie" in Kuwait, in Kuwait City on 10 August, 2023.

Kuwait has barred hit film ‘Barbie’ from cinemas over concerns about "public ethics", officials have said, also confirming a separate ban on a horror movie, ‘Talk to Me’ featuring a transgender actor.

‘Barbie’ and ‘Talk to Me’ both "promulgate ideas and beliefs that are alien to the Kuwaiti society and public order", Lafy Al-Subei'e, head of Kuwait's cinema censorship committee, told the official KUNA news agency.

poster of the film 'Barbie'

While deciding on any foreign movie, the committee usually orders "censoring of the scenes that run counter to public ethics", Subei'e was quoted as saying late on Wednesday.

"But (if) a film carries alien concepts, message or unacceptable behaviour, the committee decides to bar the stuff in question as a whole," he said.

Gulf Arab states including Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia -- all of which outlaw homosexuality -- routinely censor films that contain LGBTQ references.

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Most recently, they banned the latest Spider-Man animation in June, reportedly over a scene that includes a transgender pride flag.

However, ‘Barbie’, which has taken more than USD 1 billion worldwide, is being shown in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain.

In Lebanon, Culture Minister Mohammad Mortada said on Wednesday he had asked authorities to ban ‘Barbie’ for purportedly "promoting homosexuality", though the film does not contain any overt references to same-sex relationships or queer themes.

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‘Talk to Me’, which is shown in Emirati and Saudi theatres, features Australian transgender actor Zoe Terakes but no explicit LGBTQ references.

"Our film doesn't have queer themes," Terakes said in a statement posted on social media on Sunday, after the ban was first reported.

"I am a trans actor who happened to get the role. I'm not a theme. I'm a person," added Terakes who identifies as non-binary.