A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Friday, December 2, 2011

Inexplicable (?) Censorship Decisions: "Cat in Boots?"

It may be downright surprising that very many Western movies are cleared by censors in conservative Arab countries at all. You expect them to cut out anything religious and anything sexual, especially nudity and such, and that's to be expected I suppose (the Saudis simplify things by having no cinemas at all, though rumors are some have extensive DVD collections, not always rated PG). But sometimes something comes along that seems downright bizarre. Like this: the UAE has ruled that the current kids' cartoon film  Puss in Boots must be retitled Cat in Boots in the UAE.

It's a spinoff of Shrek, for Pete's sake. My daughter didn't want to see it because, at 11, she thinks it's too young for her. And the title Puss in Boots has its roots in a French fairy tale from the 1600s.

It is a fairly commonplace truth that 1) censors have dirty minds, and see double entendre where no one else does; and 2) in learning a new language, most people learn the dirty words first. (Be honest now: didn't you?)  Presumably, if one is to find any reason for this at all, it is the fear (and censors are trained in fear, I suspect) that "Puss" will remind someone of another similar English word which has both a perfectly innocent meaning and a more risqué one. But that's not the word here. [Though they should steer clear of the Egyptian feminist theatrical group who call themselves "The BuSSy Project," since, though "Bussy" is perfectly good Egyptian colloquial for "Look at Me" and their logo is a pair of eyes, their discussion of Eve Ensler's controversial Vagina Monologues as their inspiration makes me wonder if there's a bilingual pun lurking there somewhere. Nah, surely not. Censoring that I might understand; censoring a cartoon, though?]

The UAE's censorship has come up before. As I noted a while back, Sex and the City 2 was supposedly set largely in Abu Dhabi, but was barred from filming there or in Dubai; it was filmed in some combination of Morocco and a sort of CGI Oz Emerald City (the latter judging only from the trailer). This article from Time Out Dubai offers an overview of censorship in UAE movies.

It's a cartoon about a cat. For kids. Like the man said, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.


Naadir said...

Though the BBFC does say that the film contains "infrequent moments of mild innuendo."

Rashad said...

I'd also like to point out that in Egypt, Pussy (pronounced with the p not the b despite the lack of p in arabic) is actually a pretty common nickname for girls. There is even a store in Alexandria named Petite Pussy. I am not joking.

Michael Collins Dunn said...

"Infrequent moments of mild innuendo" could describe this post. Rashad: I know that but decided not to go there.