Margot Robbie’s upcoming Barbie movie has stirred international controversy, raising questions among audiences due to a specific scene that recognizes an Asian political conflict.
This controversy has sparked discussions about whether some countries should permit the commercial release of the film in their regions.
Vietnam became the first nation to take action, banning Barbie movie screenings in the country.
The decision by Vietnamese authorities came after it was revealed that the film depicted a map featuring the “nine-dash line,” a set of line segments asserting China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea.
Vietnam, among other neighboring countries, disputes China’s claims and considers the inclusion of the nine-dash line in the movie a violation of their sovereignty.
The state-run newspaper Tuoi Tre reported, “We do not grant a license for the American movie ‘Barbie’ to release in Vietnam because it contains the offending image of the nine-dash line.”
Following Vietnam’s decision, the Philippines also expressed concern about the depiction of the disputed sea lines and is considering a ban on the movie.
Senator Francis Tolentino, vice chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, stated, “If the invalidated 9-dash line was indeed depicted in the movie ‘Barbie,’ then it is incumbent upon the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) to ban the same as it denigrates Philippine sovereignty.”
The MTRCB confirmed that they are reviewing the film’s classification but did not provide further explanation.
However, a complete ban on the Barbie movie is not the only option being considered.
Both Vietnam and the Philippines are open to compromise, including the option to omit the scene featuring the nine-dash line or edit the map.
Another possibility is for Philippine cinemas to display an explicit disclaimer stating that the nine-dash line is “a figment of China’s imagination,” according to Senator Risa Hontiveros.
The South China Sea has been a disputed territory since the 20th century, as it contains crucial shipping lanes, abundant fishing grounds, and valuable mineral resources.
China and its neighboring countries have conflicting territorial claims in the region. In 2016, a United States dispute resolution tribunal ruled unanimously against the validity of China’s assertion and the nine-dash line. But, no concrete implementation mechanism has been put in place to uphold the decision, and China has stated that it does not recognize the ruling.
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This is not the first time the inclusion of the nine-dash line has caused controversy in the cinematic scene.
In the past, the MTRCB blocked the release of the film “Uncharted” in the Philippines due to similar concerns. DreamWorks’ animated film “Abominable” was also banned in Vietnam for featuring the disputed maps. Plus, television series, such as “Put Your Head On My Shoulders” and “Madam Secretary,” were required to delete scenes containing the contentious maps.
Barbie is set to hit theaters on July 21, 2023.