Eleven countries have banned an episode of a new Apple TV Plus series, Little America, that focuses on a gay immigrant from Syria.
As The Advocate reported Friday in its interview with writers Stephen Dunn and Amrou Al-Kadhi, "The Son," which centers on Rafiq (Haaz Sleiman) as he applies for asylum in the United States after facing violence and family rejection, faced numerous obstacles throughout its production.
Ironically, the U.S. travel ban necessitated that filming be moved to Canada in order to cast Middle Eastern actors. And now, after the episode's Friday release, 10 Arabic nations and Russia are preventing it from being screened.
Al-Kadhi sounded the alarm of the ban Monday on Twitter.
"I was really heartbroken," Al-Kadhi, who identifies as nonbinary, told Pink News in their reaction to the ban. "It was another blow, as the episode almost didn’t happen."
"I know lots of queer Arabs and Muslims currently living in the Middle East who feel terrified of expressing themselves, and was desperately hoping that this episode could act like some kind of balm or source of home and comfort for them," Al-Kadhi said. "It really saddens me to think that they don’t have access to the episode — we are exploring every option possible to get it to them."
However, the news did not come as a surprise to Al-Kadhi. "It’s the grim reality of trying to tell queer Arab stories in this global climate of far-right nationalism. They don’t make it easy — which is why it’s all the more important we fight like hell to tell them," they said.
In his interview with The Advocate, Dunn also stressed the importance of shows like Little America in changing hearts and minds toward acceptance of immigrants, LGBTQ people, and other marginalized groups.
“Our society is so divided and so afraid of one another,” said Dunn. “I know it's just a TV show. But I do think that … having these narratives accessible to people is an incredibly healing tool for us to try and understand each other.”
In response to the news of Little America's censorship, Al-Kadhi, a drag performer from Iraq, expressed a renewed commitment toward telling stories that reflect these experiences. "We will prevail," they told Pink News.