One might expect some of the Arab nations in the Middle East region to look with disdain upon the blockbuster Wonder Woman movie that came out of Hollywood this summer and is now making its way to global audiences.
The movie features Gal Gadot, a former soldier in the Israeli Defense Force (IDF). That on its own contributed to nations including Iran and Lebanon to ban the film. Gadot's subsequent social media postings publicly supporting past IDF actions also contributed to those decisions.
What one might not expect is for the ban to filter down into parts of North Africa -- including Algeria and Tunisia are in the Maghreb region. Qatar has also reportedly banned the film. There are contradictory reports regarding Jordan's status, although it seems the kingdom has prohibited the film from playing in at least some theaters.
All of this raises deep questions about the political environment in which these countries operate, the ongoing state of Israeli-Arab conflicts, and even regional problems like the recent severing of ties between Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations, including Qatar over its alleged assistance to extremist groups.
However, the Wonder Woman affair also highlights the impact this sort of politicized exporting can have on regional markets. For example, when a multinational firm based in one part of the world offers a product on which it has spent millions of dollars, and takes it to other international markets, how does the political reception of that product affect the company's bottom line?
“It is hard to say who loses more in this kind of situation,” Jason Fink, a professor of finance and the Wachovia Securities Faculty Fellow at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia told Maghreb News Wire on Sept. 29. “The only thing economics tells us is that both sides, the exporter and importer, lose. As long as patrons were willing to pay money to see the film, the entertainment value of the film was, for the patrons, worth more than the price of the ticket. And on the other side of course, the profits of the film will be reduced as well.”
Freer societies, Fink said, often reap the benefits that come with more relaxed rules on what kinds of business can happen within their borders.
“Economic freedom provides a great deal of value for members of society, and that is nullified when a government bans economic transactions,” Fink said. “There is further a benefit of cultural understanding when these kinds of economic exchanges take place. In this case, it is likely this benefit that governments have an interest in suppressing.”