Barbie banned in Vietnam over infamous “nine dash line”

Lucy-Jo Finnighan

While seemingly a light-hearted film, a map scene in the Barbie movie has supposedly violated Vietnam’s – and the Philippines’ – sovereignty.

Wrapped in plastic, she’s fantastic, and her movie is looking like it’s going to be fantastic as well. Barbie, the upcoming film by Greta Gerwig, is looking to be one of the most highly anticipated movies of the year.

Barbie films have always been well-loved, and there’s a lot of hype surrounding this movie, but also a lot of mystery. Therefore, each new piece of information that comes out about Barbie is always getting dissected.

However, one promotional clip has been dissected for the wrong reasons, and has actually led to the movie getting banned in Vietnam.

Vietnam has banned Barbie screenings over sovereignty violation

Authorities in Vietnam have banned commercial screenings of Greta Gerwig’s Barbie, despite the movie being originally slated to release there on July 21.

This is due to a particular scene in the film, which depicts a map (as seen above). Said map apparently has the “nine dash line,” which is a representation of China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea. This in turn violates Vietnam’s sovereignty, according to the country’s government, as China is laying claim to nearly all of the South China Sea.

Vi Kien Thanh, director general of the Vietnam Cinema Department under the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism, stated on Monday that the ban was decreed by the National Film Evaluation Council.

“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,” explained the state-run Tuoi Tre newspaper (via Variety), which cited Vi Kien Thanh.

There have been numerous overlapping territorial claims from numerous neighbors of China in the past. Thus, in 2016, a United Nations disputes resolution tribunal ruled against the validity of the ‘nine dash line.’ However, China has refused to recognize the decision, and there are no clear ways to implement the ruling.

There have been similar cinematic cases with Vietnam before. Animated film Abominable was banned for the same reason in 2019, as was live-action video game adaptation Uncharted, which has led to fines for any Vietnamese cinema that distributes the movies.

Warner Bros. has responded to Vietnam

Representatives for the film, while not sharing any big plot points for Barbie, have responded to claims that they have violated Vietnam’s sovereignty.

Warner Bros. has explained that in the film, Barbie is encouraged to go on a journey of self-discovery and is provided with a map to “the Real World,” made creatively by a fellow doll. Therefore, the lines depicted could as easily be interpreted as doodled-on journey lines.

“The map in Barbie Land is a child-like crayon drawing,” a spokesperson for the Warner Bros. Film Group explained to Variety. “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.”

The Philippines allows Barbie – under one condition

Neighbouring country the Philippines has allowed a commercial release of the Barbie film, despite the map posing similar issues for the nation. Though Philippines media has reported (via Variety) that the censors have asked Warner Bros. to blur said lines on the map.

The Philippines’ Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) stated “Considering the context by which the cartoonish map of the character ‘Weird Barbie’ was portrayed in the film, the Review Committee is convinced that the contentious scene does not depict the ‘nine-dash line.’ Instead, the map portrayed the route of the make-believe journey of Barbie from Barbie Land to the ‘real world,’ as an integral part of the story.”

In another written statement, it was said that “The Board believes that all things considered, it has no basis to ban the film ‘Barbie’ as there is no clear nor outright depiction of the nine-dash line in the subject film.”

The Barbie movie is in cinemas worldwide now. Check out our other coverage below:

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About The Author

Lucy-Jo is a Movies and TV Writer at Dexerto, and has previously written for Screen Rant and Girls on Tops. After earning a Master's Degree in Film and Literature, Lucy-Jo now loves covering films, TV shows, and anime, especially if it's something by Mike Flanagan, or anything drenched in camp. You can contact her at