'Barbie' Courts Controversy After Movie Allegedly Shows Map Pushing Chinese Claims in S. China Sea

(AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko, File)

The upcoming live action “Barbie” movie hasn’t even opened yet, but has found itself in the middle of an international controversy.

The trailer for the movie seems to promote it as a lighthearted comedy aimed at young people and even kids. Reportedly, though, it allegedly shows something that isn’t very child-friendly, drawing the ire of some nations in the Southeast Asia region. “Barbie” is said to include a map depicting the way China would prefer the world see the territories in the South China Sea—that is, as entirely its domain.


As a consequence, the movie slated for release on July 21 has already been banned in one country—and is about to be banned in another:

The summer blockbuster, starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, is being released later this month but is already being banned in Vietnam for apparently featuring a map showing China’s claims to the South China Sea that many say includes the territory of other nations. […]

The nine-dash line shown on the map represents China’s claim to a vast section of the disputed waters, which are also being fought over by Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, the Philippines and Taiwan.

An international tribunal at The Hague found the Chinese Communist Party’s map illegal. Beijing dismissed the ruling at the time.

The second country, the Philippines, has already set in motion the process of banning “Barbie” over the controversy. In an interview with CNN Philippines, Philippines Senator Francis Tolentino described the map as “denigrat[ing] Philippine sovereignty,” and urged the country’s film board to ban it:

If the invalidated nine-dash line was indeed depicted in the movie “Barbie,” then it is incumbent upon the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board of the Philippines to ban the same as it denigrates Philippine sovereignty.


Unsurprisingly, Chinese officials don’t see the map seen in the film as a big deal. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning told reporters:

China’s position on the South China Sea issue is clear and consistent. [Vietnam] should not link the South China Sea issue with normal cultural exchange.

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz reacted to news of the map pushing China’s worldview with a sly dig at Warner Brothers, the studio that’s set to release “Barbie”:

Cruz retweeted American Foreign Policy Council fellow Michael Sobolik’s attack on the Warner Bros. film that accused the movie giant of “bend[ing] the knee to the genocidal CCP regime to make a buck.”

“I guess ‘Barbie’ is made in China…” the senator added.

The “Barbie” screenplay was written by the film’s director, Greta Gerwig, along with fellow independent filmmaker Noah Baumbach. Readers might know two of Gerwig’s earlier films— the Oscar-nominated coming of age story, “Lady Bird” and her progressive take on “Little Women.”

Gerwig has already been in the news this week. She was just tapped as the director for an adaptation of at least one C.S. Lewis book in the Narnia fantasy series, according to sources, the Hollywood Reporter wrote on Monday. The industry publication added that “the New Yorker reported that Gerwig has a deal to direct two films in author C.S. Lewis’ Narnia franchise.”


Depending on who you ask, the “Barbie” movie is projected to earn between $60 to $80 million in its opening weekend—in North American markets alone.



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