Vietnam Bans ‘Barbie’ Movie Over South China Sea Map

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There will be no “Barbie” world in Vietnam this summer.

The Southeast Asian nation has banned the release of “Barbie,” the upcoming film directed by Greta Gerwig, because of a scene that includes the so-called nine-dash line, a U-shaped dotted line on a map showing territory in the South China Sea that both China and Vietnam claim as their own.

The nine-dash line is used in Chinese maps to mark its claim over as much as 90 percent of the South China Sea.

While an international tribunal at The Hague ruled in 2016 that China had no legal basis for its claims, Beijing has yet to concede to the ruling and has instead sought to dominate the waters, carrying out aggressive incursions and developing military installations.

Vietnam, with its long-held acrimonious ties to China, said on Monday that the new film would not be released in the country because of its use of the line, according to Vi Kien Thanh, the head of the Vietnam Cinema Department. The decision was made by the National Film Appraisal and Classification Board, which is responsible for licensing and censoring foreign movies in Vietnam.

Responding to state media on Monday, Mr. Thanh confirmed that “Barbie” was banned because of “the illegal image of the ‘cow’s tongue line’ in the film,” using the common Vietnamese phrase for the nine-dash line.

Vietnam Plus, a state newspaper, wrote that the decision to include the line “distorts the truth, violates the law in general and violates sovereignty of Vietnamese territory in particular.”

China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei all have territorial claims in the South China Sea, which include islands and other strategic maritime features.

“Barbie,” which stars Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling and a host of other celebrities, was scheduled to be released in Vietnam on July 21. Some moviegoers in the country welcomed the government’s ban. Hoang Xuan Bach, a 23-year-old university student, said the producers should have known better than to include the map.

“I hope this movie will flop,” he said.

This is not the first time Vietnam has banned films for including scenes with the nine-dash line. “Uncharted,” a 2022 action film by Sony featuring the actor Tom Holland, and DreamWorks’ 2019 animation “Abominable,” were both dropped from the nation’s box offices for the same reason.

Vo Kieu Bao Uyen contributed reporting from Vietnam.


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