Barbie stands as the year’s second-highest grossing film, yet its widespread acclaim has been met with mixed reception across different countries.
Recent reports have highlighted Kuwait’s decision to ban Barbie from cinemas, a move initiated by the country’s film censorship committee chairman, Lafi Al-Subaie. He articulated concerns that Greta Gerwig’s comedic masterpiece “carries ideas that encourage unacceptable behaviour and distort society’s values.”
Similarly, Lebanon’s culture minister, Mohammad Mortada, echoed these sentiments by taking steps to restrict the film’s screening in the country. He asserted that the movie “promoted homosexuality” and clashed with core values tied to faith and morality. Mortada officially urged Lebanon’s General Security agency, responsible for censorship determinations, to intervene and prevent Barbie from being exhibited in theatres. This decisive stance underscores the film’s perceived departure from cultural norms.
Barbie’s roster of talents, which includes LGBTQ+ actors Scott Evans, Alexandra Shipp, and Hari Nef, alongside protagonists Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, has led to its prohibition in Vietnam for an entirely distinct reason. On July 5, Vietnam’s Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism revoked Barbie’s theatre license due to a world map displayed in the film. Vietnamese authorities deemed the map offensive, citing its depiction of a long-disputed maritime border with China.
The contentious image, displayed during a scene at Weird Barbie’s (Kate McKinnon) abode in Barbie Land, showcased a whimsical yet controversial portrayal of a backward S-shaped line near Asia. This imagery appeared to correlate with the “nine-dash line,” symbolising China’s unilateral territorial assertion over the South China Sea. Despite China’s adoption of this delineation in their maps, an international court ruling in 2016 by The Hague contested the claim’s legitimacy.
Warner Bros. defended the image, describing it as a playful, child-like crayon sketch that embodies Barbie’s imaginative journey from Barbie Land to reality. The studio emphasised that no intended statement was made through this creative depiction.
Margot Robbie engaged with fan speculations surrounding Ken’s (Gosling) sexuality in an interview with the British LGBTQ magazine Attitude. She underscored the inclusivity of Barbie’s universe while noting that the characters within Barbie Land are dolls devoid of sexual orientations due to their lack of reproductive organs.
As the film’s journey unfolds, Barbie embarks on its release in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, with local censors recommending certain edits that led to a delayed premiere from its initially intended date of July 21. The extent of the modifications made to facilitate the film’s release in these regions still needs to be explored, raising questions about the film’s ultimate portrayal in these nations.