Lebanon’s culture minister recently banned the summer blockbuster "Barbie" from cinemas, but the news has left many scratching their heads over the real reason, which seems to be muddied by his statement.
The minister, Mohammed Mortada, says only that after “scrutiny”, it became clear that "Barbie" is this and that. It’s unclear what “scrutiny” he’s referring to, nor how his decision was reached.
Did a censorship committee watch the film and come up with a particular recommendation? Or did the minister act as the censor?
In either case, the statement features no mention of actually watching "Barbie", perhaps in a bid to side-step the awkward question, “Why can you watch the film and draw your own conclusions, but deny the general public the same courtesy?”
In Kuwait, the Ministry of Information’s cinema censorship committee was behind the ban. In a similar vein, the Kuwaiti decision doesn’t refer to watching the film. However, it does offer some clarity regarding the process, stating that the committee “usually orders censoring of scenes that run counter to public ethics” before approving a film.
In the case of "Barbie", however, a comprehensive ban was put into place. According to the statement, the film – which stars Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling as Barbie and Ken, respectively – carries “alien concepts, messages or unacceptable behaviour,” therefore necessitating a total barring of screenings.
In essence, the head of the Kuwaiti committee offers the same basic sentiments that the Lebanese minister does. But whereas he leans more toward broad generalisations, Mortada is more specific.
“The movie contradicts values of faith and morality... promotes sexual deviance [...] and supports the rejection of a father’s guardianship,” his statement reads.
In both countries, the main concern seems to have little to do with Barbie herself (or even the other Barbies), but rather the image in which the male, Ken, is portrayed.