'Offending Image' Keeps Barbie Out of Vietnam

Nation takes issue with map seen in film that shows China's claims to South China Sea territory
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 3, 2023 11:39 AM CDT
One Country Just Put the Kibosh on Barbie Movie
Margot Robbie arrives at a photo call for "Barbie" on June 25 at the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles.   (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

Greta Gerwig's Barbie may be one of the most-anticipated movies of the summer, but some Southeast Asia residents awaiting its debut will now have to travel over the border to see it. Reuters reports that the film starring Margot Robbie in the title role and Ryan Gosling as sidekick Ken has been banned in Vietnam, and it's all because of a map that's depicted in one scene. Shown on that map is a U-shaped line that shows China's claims on territory in the South China Sea, including in areas that Vietnam says are its own.

Per Bloomberg, China insists that more than 80% of the South China Sea is in its possession, citing a map from 1947. "We do not grant license for the American movie Barbie to release in Vietnam because it contains the offending image of the nine-dash line," local media quotes Vi Kien Thanh, an official with the nation's Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism, as saying. He adds that the ban was ruled upon by the National Film Evaluation Council, per Variety.

A court rebuffed the line in question during 2016 international arbitration at The Hague, though China doesn't recognize that decision. In addition to Vietnam, other countries such as Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, and the Philippines also all stake claims to areas on the map that China says it controls. This isn't the first movie that's been barred in Vietnam over the map: DreamWorks' Abominable and Sony's Uncharted were nixed there in 2019 and 2022, respectively, while Netflix was forced to pull the Aussie spy drama Pine Gap from Vietnamese viewers in 2021. Barbie had been set to open in Vietnam on July 21, the same day it premieres in the United States. (More Barbie movie stories.)

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