‘Barbie’ movie banned in Vietnam over controversial map

World News

Vietnam has banned Greta Gerwig’s hotly anticipated Barbie film over a scene depicting a map that uses China’s contested territorial claims in the South China Sea, according to media reports, the latest in a long line of releases ensnared in the region’s messy and longstanding political disputes over territory.

Australian actress Margot Robbie plays Barbie in the upcoming film of the same name.

AFP via Getty Images

Key Takeaways
  • Officials in Vietnam have banned commercial screenings of Warner Bros’ Barbie due to a scene that features a map of the South China Sea with the “nine-dash line,” according to reportsciting local media.
  • Vi Kien Thanh, who heads the cinema department inside Vietnam’s ministry of culture, sports and tourism, said Vietnam’s National Film Evaluation Council had decided the film would not be granted a license over its inclusion of the “illegal image.”
  • China claims almost all territory in the South China Sea and illustrates this on maps using the U-shaped nine-dash line, a controversial and unilateral interpretation rejected by numerous countries with overlapping claims, including Vietnam.
  • Vietnam claims maps showing China’s nine-dash line violate the country’s sovereignty.
  • The movie, which stars Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, had reportedly been slated to open in Vietnam on July 21.
News Peg

Barbie is one of the most hotly anticipated releases of the summer. It is a live-action story about the famous Mattel dolls—Barbie and Ken—with an all-star cast including the likes of Gosling, Robbie, Will Ferrell, Kate McKinnon, Ncuti Gatwa, Michael Cera, Simu Liu, America Ferrera and Dua Lipa. Social media hype and memes about the film—particularly it sharing a release date with another hotly anticipated movie with a markedly less upbeat tone, Oppenheimer—have raised expectations for performance at the box office.

It is far from the first film to be prohibited in the region over the inclusion of the nine-dash line. Dreamworks’ Abominable was pulled in Malaysia and Vietnam in 2019 and Tom Holland’s Uncharted was banned in Vietnam in 2022, both over the use of the nine-dash line in maps.

Key Background

The South China Sea is one of the most economically and strategically important stretches of water in the world and its territory is heavily contested. Beijing, the region’s economic and military heavyweight, claims almost all of it on the grounds of historic use and has shored up its vast claim by building military installations and entire islands in strategic spots.

Other governments, including Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam, all contest China’s claim, which was also rejected by an international tribunal in The Hague in 2016. China has rejected the ruling and continues to claim the territory, leading to some countries like Vietnam outlawing images seemingly validating its illegal claim.

This article was first published on forbes.com.

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