- By Ruby MellenRuby Mellen is a fellow at Foreign Policy with a background in TV, print, and digital journalism. Before coming to FP, she covered the 2016 election as a news associate at CNN in Washington, D.C., working on State of the Union with Jake Tapper. Prior to that, she was a politics fellow at the Huffington Post. She was born in New York and is a dual citizen of Belgium and the United States.
In Lebanon, this summer’s blockbuster superhero movie won’t be the DC Comics franchise, “Wonder Woman.” At least that’s what the government decided just hours before the film was set to premiere in select theaters across the country. Despite glowing reviews, and a seemingly uncontroversial plot, the decision to cast an Israeli actress as its leading lady has put the multi-million-dollar-budget film in the line of fire between Israel and Hezbollah.
Lebanon and Israel are still technically in a state of war, though they haven’t engaged in serious conflict since the 2006 war that left over 1,000 Lebanese people — mostly civilians — and over 100 Israeli soldiers dead.
Yet 11 years later, the government said a decades-old Lebanese statute applies to the move: It forbids the import of products from Israel and bans Lebanese citizens from traveling there. Gal Gadot, who plays Wonder Woman, is Israeli.
And Gadot — like the majority of citizens in Israel, which has mandatory military service — has served in the Israeli army and has also posted in support of the Israeli Defense Force on social media in the past, most notably in 2014 during the bloody war in Gaza.
Though Lebanon allowed the screening of another movie she appeared in last year, “Batman v Superman,” in which she played the same role, an organized media boycott campaign could be credited this time around with orchestrating the government’s sudden change of script.
The Campaign to Boycott Supporters of Israel-Lebanon, which staunchly protested the screening of the film, hailed the news, calling the action movie an “Israeli soldier film.”
A member of the campaign, Rania Masri, told the Associated Press that the ban shouldn’t be taken personally, and had more to do with international politics than with the Gadot herself. “First and foremost she is Israeli. We don’t distinguish between a good Israeli and a bad Israeli,” Masri said.
Lebanon’s not the first country to turn down the allure of a blockbuster Hollywood film. China has banned “The Departed,” Vietnam and Thailand banned “The Hunger Games” and “Mockingjay” respectively, and Malaysia banned “Zoolander.” (Not on aesthetic grounds, oddly, but because of the movie’s plot featuring a plan to assassinate the Malaysian prime minister.)
But these were all content-based bans, under the pretense that the storylines in some way dispersed propaganda or incited political movements. No country has recently banned a Hollywood film because of the leading actress.
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