ARTS + ENTERTAINMENT

‘Barbie’ crayon map triggers ban in Vietnam

Jul 21, 2023, 7:00 AM | Updated: 9:16 am

Margot Robbie as Barbie in upcoming movie. Controversial map in background....

A scene in “Barbie” depicts a child-like map some have taken as Chinese propaganda. The image may have prompted the Vietnamese government to ban the upcoming film.(Warner Bros.)

(Warner Bros.)

VIETNAM — Warner Bros.’s highly anticipated film “Barbie,” directed by Greta Gerwig is already seeing controversy. The film has not been granted a license for release in Vietnam. The “Barbie” map controversy surrounds a crayon-drawn map that includes a dashed line near Asia. 

Barbie map controversy

Vi Kien Thanh, director of Vietnam’s Cinema Department, told a Vietnamese newspaper that “[They] do not grant license for the American movie ‘Barbie’ to release in Vietnam.” Thanh said it contains the offending image of the nine-dash line.

Pham Thu Hang, a spokeswoman for Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry, made a statement saying that publications promoting the nine-dash line are not permitted to be released in Vietnam. She did not state the exact scene she was referencing. 

The film was banned because of a cartoonish map depicting Asia. The map includes a line comprising eight dashes running into the sea, though no sea is labeled or specified on the map. The Vietnamese government believes the line is a reference to the nine-dashed line.

The nine-dash line is used by China to claim almost all of the South China Sea, according to BBC. The sovereignty of this territory is often contested by China and Vietnam. 

According to BBC, an official in Vietnam called the lines on Barbie’s map an “offensive image,” comparing it to the nine-dash line. 

Bill Hayton, who has authored several books on Vietnam and the South China Sea, told The New York Times he does not understand what the controversy is about. “The map in the film appears to bear no relation to a real map of the world,” Hayton said.

“This looks like Vietnam’s censors trying to demonstrate their patriotism and usefulness to the regime,” Hayton told the Times. 

Warner Bros. response

“The map in Barbie Land is a child-like crayon drawing … the doodles depict Barbie’s make-believe journey from Barbie Land to the ‘real world.’ It was not intended to make any type of statement,” a spokesperson for Warner Bros, the production company behind Barbie, told Variety magazine.

Representatives from the film would not comment on the map’s function in the movie’s plot. They’ve only said the map represents Barbie’s ‘journey to enlightenment,’ according to Variety

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‘Barbie’ crayon map triggers ban in Vietnam