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The New Daily
The New Daily
Genevieve Thorpe

Streaming struggles: Why countries have banned these major releases

Netflix is the latest streaming service to be slapped with demands from Islamic nations over “offensive” content depicting LGBTQI+ relationships.

The Gulf Cooperation Council, which represents member states Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, issued a joint statement on Tuesday.

The GCC demanded that Netflix remove content that “contradicts Islamic and societal values”.

In the case that the streaming giant refuses to do so, the GCC said it will take “necessary legal measures”.

Al Ekhbariya TV, Saudia Arabia’s state broadcaster, also released a tweet, hinting that Netflix could soon be banned altogether.

“Will #Netflix be blocked in Saudia Arabia soon?” the tweet reads.

The ominous message was posted alongside a blurred compilation of “offensive” moments – including a clip from animated children’s program Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous, in which two teenage girls kiss.

Egypt’s national media regulator joined the chorus of complaints – demanding on Wednesday that Netflix and other streaming services adhere to the majority Muslim country’s “societal values”.

And just last month, Hungary’s national media regulator launched an investigation into the streaming giant for allegedly violating the country’s ban on trans and LGBTQI+ content aimed at children – seemingly over the same Jurassic World series.

Netflix has remained tight-lipped on the issue so far, declining several publications’ requests for comment, including one from The New Daily.

It is unclear whether the streaming service has since made any changes to its content offerings in Egypt, Hungary or the six Gulf Nations.

Lightyear’s voyage cut short

Major studios and streaming companies have butted heads with governments of various countries over recent years due to LGBTQI+ representation.

Back in June, Buzz Lightyear origin story Lightyear was denied release in more than a dozen nations or territories for the exact same reason.

In the film, Buzz’s friend Alisha Hawthorne (voiced by Uzo Aduba) is in a same-sex marriage, and at one point kisses her wife.

The United Arab Emirates was the first nation to pull the plug. Its Media Regulatory Office if its Ministry of Youth and Culture said the film violated the country’s media content standards.

“The office confirms that all films screened in cinemas across the country are subject to follow-up and evaluation before the date of screening to the public, to ensure the safety of the circulated content according to the appropriate age classification.”

Marvel star Chris Evans, who voiced Buzz Lightyear in the film, expressed his disappointment.

“The real truth is those people are idiots,” he told Reuters.

“Every time there’s been social advancement as we wake up, the American story, the human story is one of constant social awakening and growth and that’s what makes us good.

“There’s always going to be people who are afraid and unaware and trying to hold on to what was before.”

China also requested the movie be edited to remove the scene – a request that was refused by Disney, the owner of Pixar.

No love for Thor

Disney was issued another brutal blow just a month later – this time over the release of the latest Thor flick, Thor: Love and Thunder.

The film depicted two of its main characters – Valkyrie and Korg – expressing interest in the same sex.

Valkyrie is shown kissing the hand of another woman, while Korg enters a relationship with another member of his species.

The film was eventually banned in Malaysia, China and Kuwait.

Thor: Love & Thunder, which starred Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman, was banned in several countries over its LGBTQI+ content. Photo: Marvel Studios

Love & Thunder is far from the only superhero flick impacted by the stringent laws.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness was also impacted upon its release – the film banned by Saudi Arabia and Egypt for LGBTQI+ references and the inclusion of a lesbian character.

Marvel film Eternals was banned in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar for the exact same reasons.

Fine line

In the past, studios have made efforts to be somewhat progressive while attempting to remain marketable in as many countries as possible.

In the case of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Disney decided to manipulate the marketing material seen by its Chinese audience.

Star Wars fans were outraged when they discovered stormtrooper-turned-hero Finn, played by black actor John Boyega, had been radically minimised in the film’s official poster for China.

In the original Boyega and his blue lightsaber take up a fair amount of real estate on the right-hand-side of the poster.

In the version for China, Boyega’s character was reduced to a fraction of its original size, with Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) scaled up to fill his spot.

As for the loveable wookie Chewbacca, he was removed from the poster altogether.

‘A troubling compromise’

Netflix may be back in hot water with Islamic nations over its LGBTQI+ content, but if the past is anything to go by, the streaming giant may be able to reach a compromise.

On January 1, 2019, Netflix confirmed it had removed an episode of Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj for its Saudi viewers following a legal complaint from Saudi Arabia.

In the episode, comedian Minhjaj accused Saudi Arabia of covering up the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and condemned attacks on Yemen.

But 18 months later, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings revealed the company had struck an unusual deal with Saudi Arabia.

In return for removing the offending episode of Patriot Act, a number of more explicit titles were made available for Saudi viewers.

Mr Hastings told CNN that Orange is the New Black, Queer Eye and Sex Education had been made available to Saudi customers – all of which either make LGBTQI+ references or show LGBTQI+ relationships.

“It’s a troubling compromise, not something that we approach easily or lightly, but on balance we think it’s a good move,” he said.

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