HANOI, VIETNAM – Vietnam media have reported that the Government has officially prohibited the screening of the new Barbie movie owing to cultural insensitivity of the film which contains offending images portraying China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea.
The film scheduled to open in Vietnam on 21 July, features Margot Robbie as Barbie and Ryan Gossling as Ken and is a comedic look at Barbie’s supposedly “perfect” world had depicted a controversial map of the Nine-Dash-Line in its scene.
Vi Kien Thanh, head of Vietnam’s Department of Cinema, said, “We do not grant license for the American movie Barbie to release in Vietnam because it contains the offending image on the Nine-Dash-Line”.
The Nine-Dash-Line is a boundary drawn by China that encompasses a large part of the South China Sea, including significant areas disputed by neighbouring countries such as Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.
China continues to assert the legitimacy of the Nine-Dash-Line despite a 2016 United Nations Law of the Sea Convention Tribunal ruling that its claim had no basis in international law.
China rejected the ruling and have since refused to respect the outcome of the case as it continues to assert its South China Sea entitlements in multiple ways such as harassing foreign naval and military aircraft passing through the region, intimidating Vietnamese and other foreign fishermen and also carries on publishing maps depicting the Nine-Dash-Line claim.
The inclusion of the disputed territories in the Barbie movie has drawn backlash from Vietnam citizens as they argue that it legitimises China’s territorial claims, which they believe to be unlawful and encroaching on their sovereign rights.
A spokesperson for the Warner Bros Film group told Variety that the fictional map in Barbie Land is a child-like crayon drawing with chalk-scribbled dolphins and even a hashtag bobbing around Earth’s vast bodies of water.
“The doodles depict Barbie’s make-believe journey from Barbie Land to the ‘real world’ and not intended to make any type of statement,” he added.
Many Vietnamese netizens took to media platforms to express their concerns and had earlier called for a boycott of the film, and it is reported that the Philippines may soon follow Vietnam’s move as the country’s senators have been urging their government to ban the film based on the same reason.
Posters advertising the movie have been removed from movie distributors’ websites after the decision was made last Monday.