Warner Bros defends ‘childlike’ Barbie movie map after Vietnam bans film

Offending map ‘was not intended to make any type of statement’, studio insists

Ellie Harrison
Friday 07 July 2023 07:21 BST
Barbie teaser trailer

Warner Bros has defended a doodle of a map in the new Barbie movie, after the film was banned in Vietnam.

The film, starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, reportedly contains a scene depicting a map showing what appears to be the “nine dash line”.

The line is a representation of China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, which Vietnam says violates its sovereignty.

China and Vietnam have long been in a stand-off over the region, while Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia all make claims to parts of the sea.

According to local Vietnamese outlets, the drawing is deemed an “illegal image” and has therefore prompted the national ban.

Vi Kien Thanh, director general of the Vietnam Cinema Department under the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism, reportedly announced the ban on Monday (3 July).

In a statement to Variety, Warner Bros said the “doodles” shown were intended to depict “Barbie’s make-believe journey from Barbie Land”.

“The map in Barbie Land is a child-like crayon drawing,” a spokesperson said. They added that it “was not intended to make any type of statement”.

Barbie ‘world map’

This is not the first time that the Vietnamese government has halted a film’s release due to the inclusion of the nine-dash line.

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Last year, Sony’s action movie Uncharted was pulled for the same reason, as well as the DreamWorks animated film Abominable in 2019. Netflix also removed an Australian spy drama series, Pine Gap, from streaming services in 2021.

Greta Gerwig’s Barbie film stars Margot Robbie as the Mattel doll who, after getting booted from Barbieland, sets off to the human world in a bid to find true happiness.

Ryan Gosling and Margot Robbie in Greta Gerwig’s ‘Barbie’

Gosling co-leads the movie as Ken, Barbie’s boyfriend, with Simu Liu, Will Ferrell, Ncuti Gatwa, Michael Cera, Issa Rae, Rhea Perlman and Kate McKinnon among those making up the supporting cast.

Billie Eilish was recently revealed as one of the featured artists contributing to the Barbie soundtrack. Her song “What Was I Made For” will be released on 13 July.

Eilish joins Dua Lipa, Ice Spice and Haim, who were included in the initial unveiling of the all-star soundtrack in May.

Barbie is due for release in the UK on 21 July, the same day as Christopher Nolan’s historical epic Oppenheimer.

Additional reporting by Press Association

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