Yuri Lowenthal, the motion capture and voice of Spider-Man in Insomniac's web-slinging game, publicly called on Justin Bieber to cancel his concert, tweeting, "Don't perform for a dictator who imprisons women's rights activists, murders journalists & kills Yemeni children. It’s not worth the money."
Bieber performed in the Red Sea city of Jeddah, where the Forumla One Grand Prix had just taken place. This concert is part of a wider initiative to make Jeddah – and Saudi Arabia at large – a more attractive tourist destination in efforts to diversify the country's economy so that it is less dependent on oil.
Recent improvements to women's rights and cultural freedoms have come in under crown prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud's rule. Women are now allowed drive, dress how they please, and no longer need permission from a male guardian to travel. This is progress for women of the ultra-conservative nation, but it still remains one of the most restrictive countries in the world.
However, despite these changes, Saudia Arabia maintains an authoritarian government and is involved in many human rights violations, such as imprisoning journalists and women's rights activists, the destruction of thousands of local homes for a new planned city, Neom, and the bombing of Yemen – aided by arms deals with the US and UK. That is why activists and organisations have been calling on many pop stars to boycott it in the years since concerts have been reinstated – where women are allowed to attend, but not dance.
Mariah Carey was the first Western celebrity to perform in the country after some reforms took place in 2017. Nicki Minaj was due to perform there in 2019, but said, "after better educating myself on the issues, I believe it is important for me to make clear my support for the rights of women, the LGBTQ community and freedom of expression."
Lowenthal's tweet was picked up by Freedom Forward, an organisation that seeks "an end to U.S. alliances with dictators, kings, and apartheid governments." Lowenthal's performance as Spider-Man was a huge hit with fans, and it's great to see his character's conviction to stand up for people is also felt by the actor.
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