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Lebanon minister calls for banning of 'Barbie' movie

The Hezbollah-backed politician accused the film of promoting homosexuality, among other things, amid rising anti-LGBTQ sentiment in the region. "Barbie" is scheduled to be released in the Gulf this week.
Canadian actor Ryan Gosling and Australian actress Margot Robbie.

A Lebanese minister on Wednesday railed against the “Barbie” movie, accusing the film of promoting homosexuality, denigrating men's and women’s roles in society, and calling for it to be banned.

Culture Minister Mohammad Mortada said the film “promotes homosexuality and sexual transformation.” He also criticized its depiction of gender roles, saying it “challenges the guidance of the father, reduces the role of the mother and mocks it, and questions the necessity of marriage and having a family,” the official National News Agency reported.

Mortada called on Lebanese General Security to prohibit the film from being screened in Lebanon, according to the agency.

Mortada is an ally of the Shiite Islamist organization Hezbollah. The Interior Ministry, which oversees Lebanese General Security, did not immediately comment on his remarks, according to Reuters.

Background: “Barbie” is based on a story involving the eponymous doll produced by the American company Mattel. In the movie, a Barbie living in Barbieland ventures to the “real world” of Los Angeles alongside Beach Ken, the latter being based on the Ken dolls sold alongside Barbie dolls. The film has been widely described as “feminist” and touches on male-female relationships, struggles women go through in society and related topics.

The film does not have any outright LGBTQ themes, and much of it focuses on Ken’s romantic feelings for Barbie. Some observers have speculated that the supporting character, Allan, is gay, however.

"Barbie" is scheduled to be released in the Gulf this week. In Egypt, it is scheduled to be released on Aug. 31. The film was released in Turkey, Israel and other countries in July.

"Barbie" has already surpassed $1 billion in revenue worldwide and generated massive hype. The movie has also prompted discussions in the United States and other Western countries on whether the film is anti-male.

Why it matters: LGBTQ people in Lebanon have historically faced less repression than their counterparts in other countries in the region such as Iran and in Gulf countries. However, the community has come under threat in the past year. For example, Interior Minister Bassam al-Mawlawi instructed authorities in June 2022 to ban events geared toward “promoting sexual perversion.” The United Nations warned of “rising hate speech, discrimination and violence” toward LGBTQ people in Lebanon in response, Al-Monitor reported at the time.

In 2017, Lebanon hosted its first Pride parade — the first country in the Arab world to do so. However, the following year, authorities arrested a prominent LGBTQ activist and pressured him to cancel Pride events in Beirut, Human Rights Watch reported.

The success of the band Mashrou Leila has also highlighted the situation of LGBTQ people in Lebanon, as lead singer Hamed Sinno identifies as queer. The band called it quits in September of last year, citing harassment and the banning of their concerts in the region.

Mortada’s statement also comes amid intensifying anti-LGBTQ sentiment in the wider region. In June, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia banned the Spider-Man movie. The film featured a transgender flag. The same month, Iraqi protesters burned rainbow flags in response to the Quran burning in Sweden.

On Wednesday evening, Kuwait's Ministry of Information also announced screening "Barbie" is banned. The ministry said the film "promulgates ideas and beliefs that are alien to the Kuwaiti society," according to the official Kuwait News Agency.

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