International ‘Barbie’ Backlash Might Be Spreading

The film is facing serious criticism before it even premieres. International ‘Barbie’ Backlash Might Be Spreading Giphy

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If you’ve seen any of the promotional material for the upcoming “Barbie” live-action film, it probably didn’t strike you as a particularly controversial movie. But there’s one issue that has led Vietnam to ban it nationwide.

All about a map

In one scene, the movie depicts a region of the South China Sea that reflects the so-called nine-dash line. Casual viewers in the U.S. might not understand why this is so noteworthy, but those living in areas affected by China’s claim of sovereignty over the region say it gives the communist nation more credibility for its widely disputed assertion.

Vietnam and China have waged two wars over this property over the past half-century and doesn’t take depictions of the nine-dash line lightly. The country similarly boycotted the 2019 film “Abominable” over a similar scene.

Spreading outrage

There’s new evidence that Vietnam might not be alone in its ban on the film, which is set to premiere later this month.

In a statement published earlier this week, the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board in the Phillipines confirmed that the film was under review. Although that notification did not specifically cite the map scene as the reason for the review, speculation has abounded that it’s the likeliest issue.

Producers respond

Warner Bros., which is the studio behind the film based on Mattel’s iconic line of dolls, insisted that the depiction of the map was not intended to stir up controversy. Instead, the company claimed that in the context of the movie it was merely a “child-like” drawing without any further message implied.

"The doodles depict Barbie's make-believe journey from Barbie Land to the real world,” the studio declared. “It was not intended to make any type of statement."

Chris Agee
Chris Agee July 8th, 2023
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