Vietnamese and Philippine Authorities Consider Bans on Barbie Movie Amidst Controversial Scene

Controversy surrounds the upcoming Barbie movie, starring Margot Robbie, as Vietnamese and Philippine authorities consider potential bans due to a contentious scene involving an Asian political conflict. This development has ignited debates about whether certain countries should allow the commercial release of films within their regions.

Vietnam took the first step by banning Barbie movie screenings in the country. The decision came after it was revealed that the film depicted a map featuring the “nine-dash line,” representing China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea. Vietnam and other neighbouring countries dispute China’s claims and view the inclusion of the nine-dash line as a violation of their sovereignty. The state-run newspaper Tuoi Tre reported that the movie was denied a license in Vietnam due to the offending image.

Following Vietnam’s actions, the Philippines also expressed concerns about portraying the disputed sea lines and is contemplating a ban on the movie. Senator Francis Tolentino emphasized the need for the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) to ban the film if it contains the invalidated nine-dash line, as it undermines Philippine sovereignty. The MTRCB confirmed they are reviewing the film’s classification but did not provide further details.

While a complete ban on the Barbie movie is being considered, other potential options are on the table. Both Vietnam and the Philippines are open to compromise, such as omitting the scene featuring the nine-dash line or editing the map. Additionally, Senator Risa Hontiveros suggested that Philippine cinemas could display an explicit disclaimer stating that the nine-dash line is “a figment of China’s imagination.”

The South China Sea has long been disputed due to its strategic importance in shipping lanes, fishing grounds, and mineral resources. China and neighbouring countries have conflicting territorial claims in the region. In 2016, a United States dispute resolution tribunal ruled unanimously against China’s assertion and the nine-dash line validity. However, no concrete implementation mechanism has been established to enforce the decision, and China has stated its non-recognition of the ruling.

This is not the first time that the inclusion of the nine-dash line has caused controversy in the cinematic scene. In the past, the MTRCB blocked the release of the film “Uncharted” in the Philippines for similar reasons, while DreamWorks’ animated film “Abominable” faced a ban in Vietnam due to its depiction of disputed maps. Television series like “Put Your Head On My Shoulders” and “Madam Secretary” were also required to delete scenes featuring contentious maps.

As the release date of the Barbie movie approaches on July 21, 2023, the discussions and negotiations between relevant authorities continue. The outcome will determine whether the film can be screened in Vietnam and the Philippines, with the possibility of edits or disclaimers to address the concerns surrounding the depiction of the nine-dash line.