The banning of ‘Eternals’ in the Kingdom, cultural taboos vs censorship


AMMAN — Jordan has joined the Arab censorship bandwagon that has banned the Marvel film “Eternals” for allegedly depicting same-sex relationships.اضافة اعلان

Chloé Zhao’s film “Eternals” features a new team of superheroes, ancient aliens who have been living on Earth in secret for thousands of years. An unexpected tragedy forces them out of the shadows to reunite against humankind’s most ancient enemy, the Deviants. The film stars a number of Hollywood stars, including Salma Hayek and Angelina Jolie.

The film was also banned in GCC countries like Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, but not in the UAE, nor was it banned in Lebanon or Syria. Egypt did, however, ban the movie.

The Jordan Media Commission (JMC) had requested a series of edits on the film, which Disney and distribution companies were allegedly unwillingly to make.

“After it was submitted to JMC for approval, we asked the distributers to cut a few senses which are almost a minute from the film, and won’t affect the artistic value or meaning of the movie. Since they refused to delete some scenes, we decided to ban the film,” Tareq Abu Al Raghib, director general of JMC, told Jordan News.

Another reason to ban “Eternals”, Abu Al Raghib said is its rating of PG-13. “Due the sexual content we asked them to make it 18, the answer from distributors was to reject that,” he said. The decision to ban the movie was in accordance with the Audio Visual Media Law.

From marvels point of view, Eternals was rated PG-13, which often suggests the need for parents to be cautioned. It suggests content included may not be appropriate for children under 13, or may include stronger language, extended violence or sexual situations and drug-use.

Eternals received the ranking for “fantasy violence and action, some language, and brief sexuality.” In this case, the PG-13 rating is considered a problem due to societal standards in the Middle East.

Movies that come out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) tend to be PG-13. However, this movie is the first time an LGBTQ couple is depicted in the MCU.

Jordanian film director Mahmoud Al-Massad, who’s film “Blessed Benefits” was banned in 2017 as it contained scenes that are “harmful to the state’s deference”, told Jordan News that the same film was later screened on Netflix, which made no sense to him.

“Why ban a film locally, asking to remove and delete a third of the scenes in the film, which is detrimental to the work's technical (value) and core focus,” Massad said.

“If you want to ban something for its content, they should start with banning platforms such as Netflix, pornography, and others who make all banned content, that are within an audience’s reach,” he said.

Nevertheless, Abu Al Raghib said the JMC does not have control over unauthorized external content in Jordan.

 “We believe in artists’ freedom and right to express themselves and their opinions. This is one of the underlying principles of the Royal Film Commission’s vision and we apply it in our daily work with productions, trainings, and screenings,” said Mohannad Al Bakri, managing director of the Royal Film Commission – Jordan.

“However, we are aware that we are part of a society in a country governed by laws to which everybody has to abide. Censoring films to be screened in Jordan is not our responsibility nor falls within our scope of work. This is the role of the media commission,” Bakri said.

Bayan Tal, a media and communications consultant, said that “censorship is a form of guardianship where governments feel they own the truth and can impose on people what they should read, or write, or watch.”

“People should be free to access information, and view material or films, or read books without any interference from the state,” Tal said, adding that censorship restricts not just freedoms but creativity and critical thinking.

“I think people should have the opportunity to view material, armed with the skills that they need to think critically about what they are watching and what they are reading,” Tal said, adding that it is important for parents to understand the impact of films or the games that their children play, and any online content, and guide them through some of the content.

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