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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Controversial release of Barbie in Saudi Arab

'Barbie' film's $1B success ignites Middle East debate. Feminism, family values, and cultural clash take center stage

In a striking display of fandom, cinema-goers in Riyadh donned various shades of pink and embraced their funkiest accessories on the opening day of the highly anticipated movie “Barbie.” The film, which has already raked in a staggering $1 billion at the US box office, has taken local audiences by storm. This vibrant enthusiasm among movie-goers illustrates the impact of Barbie’s influence on local cultures.

Controversy Takes Center Stage

However, as the film spreads its pink-hued magic, it has also ignited a firestorm of criticism across the Middle East. While Kuwait has outright banned the movie, Lebanon is currently embroiled in a heated debate about whether to follow suit. The core concern voiced by critics is the perceived disruption of cultural norms that the film brings along with its popularity.

Read More: Algeria bans ‘Barbie’ movie, media and official source say

Feminism and Family Values in the Spotlight

At the heart of the controversy lies the movie’s portrayal of a woman’s tribulations in the “real world.” Despite its strong thematic elements, the film has drawn criticism from individuals who argue that it promotes extreme feminist ideologies that demean men. Many also contend that it challenges traditional family values. These concerns highlight the cultural clash between the movie’s message and societal expectations.

Unanticipated Release Sparks Speculation

Rumors had swirled that Saudi Arabia might ban “Barbie,” especially after the film’s screening was postponed to August 31—more than a month after its US release. However, the movie’s release on August 10 caught many by surprise, with only a few days’ notice for advanced ticket purchases. This unexpected move sparked both speculation and reactions from movie-goers and critics alike.

Voices of Endorsement and Critique

Opinions on the movie among Middle Eastern audiences are diverse. Mohammed F., a viewer, commends the film for addressing patriarchal attitudes and consumerism in a playful manner, using Barbie dolls as the medium. He emphasizes the educational value for women in understanding the challenges they face due to prevailing patriarchal norms.

However, not all responses are positive. Some argue that the film’s portrayal of feminism and the dismantling of patriarchy could have gone further in pushing boundaries. One anonymous woman expresses disappointment in the movie, believing that it fell short of its potential to be a groundbreaking film.

Visual Spectacle 

Critics and supporters alike acknowledge the film’s technical prowess, which encompasses lavish wardrobes, intricate set designs, a catchy soundtrack, and witty dialogue within the pink-saturated world of Barbie. For many women, the movie holds particular significance as it mirrors their journey from innocent childhood to facing the realities of contemporary society.

Director’s Reputation

Greta Gerwig, celebrated for her work on critically acclaimed films like “Little Women” and “Ladybird,” directed “Barbie.” Yet, some viewers express expectations that weren’t entirely met by the film. While it touches on important themes, some argue that the movie didn’t delve as deeply as anticipated into subjects like patriarchy and gender discrimination.

Reflection of Generational Differences

“Barbie” seems to have exposed generational disparities within families. Abdullah Faisal recounts how the film prompted diverse reactions from different generations. While his sister found the themes personally resonant, their mother appreciated the film’s messages but found them familiar and lacking in emotional resonance.

Read More: Aminah Ali’s role in the transformation of Barbie

The pink-infused world of “Barbie” has sparked a range of reactions across the Middle East, where cultural norms and societal expectations intersect with the movie’s themes. As audiences embrace its vibrant visual spectacle and thought-provoking content, “Barbie” has become more than just a film—it’s a conversation starter about feminism, family values, and the evolution of women’s roles in society. Whether hailed as an empowering cinematic experience or critiqued for not pushing boundaries far enough, “Barbie” has undeniably left an indelible mark on Middle Eastern cinema-goers and cultural discourse.