‘Barbie’ Movie Allowed In Philippines, Officials Rule After Vietnam Banned It

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‘Barbie’ Movie Allowed In Philippines, Officials Rule After Vietnam Banned It


The film Barbie will be shown in cinemas in the Philippines after the country’s motion picture review board conducted a “meticulous” review of a map of the South China Sea shown in the film, the board announced Wednesday, as the fantasy comedy film has generated political controversy since Vietnam announced it would ban the movie over its apparent depiction of China’s “nine-dash line.”

Key Facts

The Philippine government’s Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) said it determined after a thorough review of Barbie that the film does not depict the controversial “nine-dash line,” which illustrates China’s claim over the South China Sea, even as that territorial claim has not been recognized by the international community.

The MTRCB said in a statement it is “convinced” that a map shown in the film does not depict the nine-dash line, but rather “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 a letter sent to Philippine Sen. Francis Tolentino and reported by Agence France-Presse, the MTRCB said it had asked Warner Bros to “blur” the lines on the map.

The censors noted in the letter, the existence of which the MTRCB confirmed to Forbes, that the controversial line on the Barbie map only has eight dashes, and “the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia are not visible on the map.”

The agency said it had come to its conclusion after “two review sessions, thorough deliberations, and consultations with relevant government agencies, including a legal expert on the West Philippine Sea.”

Warner Bros has previously defended the Barbie film’s map as “child-like” and said it was not intended to make a political statement.

What To Watch For

The Barbie film will be released in U.S. cinemas on July 21, and in the Philippines on July 19.

Key Background

The Barbie film is one of the most hotly anticipated movie releases of the summer, telling the story of the iconic Mattel doll. (And Ken.) The film has already drawn widespread attention on social media—particularly for its shared release date with Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer—and stars Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling as Barbie and Ken as they venture into the real world. The film started generating political controversy on July 3, when Vietnam announced it was banning the movie over its apparent depiction of the “nine-dash line.” Territory over the strategically important South China Sea has been heavily contested and China still maintains its claim over the region, despite a 2016 ruling from a tribunal at The Hague in favor of the Philippines that rejected China’s control over the sea. Vietnam and the Philippines are among the countries in the region around the South China Sea that contest China’s claim to the area, along with such other countries as Taiwan, Brunei and Malaysia.


Barbie isn’t the first film that Vietnam has banned over its depiction of the “nine-dash line,” following the outlawing of such other films as the Dreamworks film Abominable in 2019 and Uncharted in 2022. Following its Barbie decision, Vietnam has also targeted K-pop group Blackpink, saying it’s “unacceptable” the group used a map on their website that depicts the line before Blackpink performs in the country later in July. Netflix also removed the Chinese series Flight to You from its streaming service in Vietnam earlier this week over concerns about the map.

Surprising Fact

The political controversy over the Barbie movie has reverberated in the U.S., where Republican lawmakers have also started taking aim at the film over its purported depiction of the “nine-dash line.” A spokesperson for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said the film was trying to “appease the Chinese Communist Party,” and Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) accused the film of “bending to Beijing to make a quick buck.” “While it may just be a Barbie map in a Barbie world, the fact that a cartoonish, crayon-scribbled map seems to go out of its way to depict the PRC’s unlawful territorial claims illustrates the pressure that Hollywood is under to please CCP censors,” Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) told Politico.

Further Reading

Philippines allows Barbie film but wants controversial map blurred (Agence France-Presse)

‘Barbie’ Movie Banned In Vietnam Over Controversial Map (Forbes)

Warner Bros Defends ‘Child-Like’ Map That Got ‘Barbie’ Banned In Vietnam (Forbes)

How Do ‘Barbie’ and Blackpink Figure in a Dangerous Territorial Dispute? (New York Times)

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