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Here's Why Greta Gerwig's 'Barbie' Has Been Banned by the Vietnamese Government

Warner Bros' 'Barbie' has been banned in Vietnam over the controversial nine-dash line.

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Vietnam has banned all commercial screenings of Greta Gerwig's most anticipated film of the year, Barbie. The movie, starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling in lead roles, is scheduled for a worldwide release on 21 July.

However, just a few weeks before its premiere, Warner Bros' summer flick found itself in a political mess over a scene from its trailer depicting a "somewhat map" of the South China Sea with the nine-dash line, contested by the Vietnamese government.

So, where does the nine-dash line come from? What makes it so controversial? And why is it significant for Vietnam and China? Here's all you need to know:

Here's Why Greta Gerwig's 'Barbie' Has Been Banned by the Vietnamese Government

  1. 1. The Controversial 'Map' in Barbie's Trailer

    Warner Bros released several teasers and trailers for Barbie, to give fans a glimpse into the Mattel doll's fictional world. However, the film's full-length trailer, which was released on 25 May, ended up stirring a controversy.

    • The 2-minute, 40-second trailer features a scene that depicts the world map, which a Vietnamese senior official called the "offensive image" of China's nine-dash line.

    • The map appears in the trailer when Barbie, played by Margot Robbie, goes to visit another Barbie, played by Kate McKinnon, at her mansion.

    • During their conversation, McKinnon pursues Robbie to go to the "Real World," and that's when the map features in the background.

    Warner Bros' 'Barbie' has been banned in Vietnam over the controversial nine-dash line.

    A screengrab from Barbie's official trailer.

    (Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

    • The world map depicted in the trailer looks rather like a badly- scribbled doodle drawn by a child, with shapes that do not match the actual outlines of the continents.

    • The map features a nine-dash line in the ocean, alongside the coast of an absurd shape marked as Asia.

    • However, it is unclear if it represents China's nine-dash line.

    • It also features other continents like Africa, Australia, and some that remain unnamed.

    Expand
  2. 2. Vietnamese Government's Allegations on the Film

    The news of Barbie's ban in Vietnam was first reported by the Vietnamese publication Tuổi Trẻ. The ban was issued by the country's Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism’s Cinema Department, citing the film's depiction of what appears to be "the illicit ‘nine-dash line’ that China uses to illegally claim its sovereignty over most of the East Vietnam Sea", as per Tuổi Trẻ.

    • In continuation of the report, Vi Kien Thanh, director general of the Vietnam Cinema Department which comes under the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism, confirmed the ban on 3 July, stating it was decided by Vietnam’s National Film Evaluation Council.

    Warner Bros' 'Barbie' has been banned in Vietnam over the controversial nine-dash line.

    Vi Kien Thanh, director general of the Vietnam Cinema Department.

    (Photo Courtesy: Twitter)

    "We do not grant a licence for the American movie Barbie to release in Vietnam because it contains the offending image of the nine-dash line," Tuổi Trẻ quoted Vi Kien Thanh.
    • Warner Bros has not yet reacted to the controversy or released an official statement on the same.

    • While it remains unclear whether the production house would be willing to make edits in the film's final cut, the Vietnamese government has also not laid down conditions under which the ban would be lifted.

    Expand
  3. 3. Warner Bros' Response to the Controversy

    Warner Bros has responded to the controversy, saying that the now-controversial map in the Barbie trailer was more of a "child-like" drawing and not intended as a statement.

    Warner Bros' 'Barbie' has been banned in Vietnam over the controversial nine-dash line.

    A screengrab from Barbie's official trailer.

    (Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

    As per a report by Variety, a spokesperson for the Warner Bros Film Group shared on 6 July, "The doodles depict Barbie’s make-believe journey from Barbie Land to the ‘real world.'"

    "The map in Barbie Land is a child-like crayon drawing. It was not intended to make any type of statement," the spokesperson told the publication.

    Expand
  4. 4. The Origin of the Nine-Dash Line

    The nine-dash line is often used in Chinese maps to show its territorial claims in the South China Sea. And Vietnam is one of the countries that contests China's claims.

    • Following the end of World War 2 in 1940, the Chinese Nationalist Party published a map with a U-shaped line, which originally had eleven dashes.

    • However, in 1952, the eleven-dash line became a nine-dash line, when two out of the eleven dashes were given away to the communist government of North Vietnam as a concession.

    • The U-shape zone, which is spread across 1,931 kilometers south of the Chinese mainland, encompasses 90 per cent of the waters.

    • This zone represents Beijing's claim over the sea and all the land features contained within the line.

    Warner Bros' 'Barbie' has been banned in Vietnam over the controversial nine-dash line.

    A map of the South China Sea that depicts the nine-dash line.

    (Photo Courtesy: Twitter)

    • The Chinese government claims everything inside the zone, including islands and archipelagos, citing "historical rights."

    • For years, Beijing has been building military bases on these artificial islands in the zone and also conducts naval patrols in the area.

    • However, some of the land masses in the zone are also claimed by Southeast Asian countries like Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Taiwan and the Philippines.

    Expand
  5. 5. Why Is the Nine-Dash Line Significant for China & Vietnam?

    With pockets of untapped oil and natural gas, the South China Sea is one of the busiest fishing and trading hubs in the world. While the concept of the nine-dash line has been around since 1947 it gained prominence in 2009, when China included the map with the nine-dash line in the documents submitted to the UN during their dispute with Vietnam.

    • Southeast Asian countries like Vietnam, China, Malaysia, Brunei, Taiwan and the Philippines have had disputes over the South China Sea for centuries.

    • The two main points of contention between the nations are the Spratly Islands and the Paracel Islands in the sea.

    In 2020, Australia rejected China's maritime claims over the South China Sea and wrote to the United Nations stating, "There is no legal basis for China to draw straight baselines connecting the outermost points of maritime features or ‘island groups’ in the South China Sea."

    • In mid-July 2020, the US government also rejected China's claims over the South China Sea.

    • Earlier, in 2016, an international tribunal in The Hague also ruled against the Chinese claims; however, Beijing did not recognise the judgment.

    • Even today, the nine-dash line remains a matter of dispute, and there is still ambiguity over what it implies.

    Expand
  6. 6. Previous Films Banned By Vietnam

    This isn't the first time Vietnam has banned a film over depictions of maps featuring China's nine-dash line. Vietnam has a history of it.

    • In 2019, the nation issued a ban on Dreamworks' animated film, Abominable.

    • The Philippine government had also called for a boycott of the animated film.

    • Netflix's 2021 Australian spy drama Pine Gap was also ordered to be removed from its service in Vietnam. 

    • In 2022, the Tom Holland-starrer Uncharted was also banned by Vietnam for the same reason.

    Warner Bros' 'Barbie' has been banned in Vietnam over the controversial nine-dash line.

    Uncharted and Abominable were both banned by the Vietnamese government.

    (Photo Courtesy: Twitter)

    According to Viêt Nam News, the Vietnamese government is also reportedly considering a ban on Christopher Nolan’s biographical drama Oppenheimer, which shares its release date with Greta Gerwig's Barbie.

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

The Controversial 'Map' in Barbie's Trailer

Warner Bros released several teasers and trailers for Barbie, to give fans a glimpse into the Mattel doll's fictional world. However, the film's full-length trailer, which was released on 25 May, ended up stirring a controversy.

  • The 2-minute, 40-second trailer features a scene that depicts the world map, which a Vietnamese senior official called the "offensive image" of China's nine-dash line.

  • The map appears in the trailer when Barbie, played by Margot Robbie, goes to visit another Barbie, played by Kate McKinnon, at her mansion.

  • During their conversation, McKinnon pursues Robbie to go to the "Real World," and that's when the map features in the background.

Warner Bros' 'Barbie' has been banned in Vietnam over the controversial nine-dash line.

A screengrab from Barbie's official trailer.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

  • The world map depicted in the trailer looks rather like a badly- scribbled doodle drawn by a child, with shapes that do not match the actual outlines of the continents.

  • The map features a nine-dash line in the ocean, alongside the coast of an absurd shape marked as Asia.

  • However, it is unclear if it represents China's nine-dash line.

  • It also features other continents like Africa, Australia, and some that remain unnamed.

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

Vietnamese Government's Allegations on the Film

The news of Barbie's ban in Vietnam was first reported by the Vietnamese publication Tuổi Trẻ. The ban was issued by the country's Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism’s Cinema Department, citing the film's depiction of what appears to be "the illicit ‘nine-dash line’ that China uses to illegally claim its sovereignty over most of the East Vietnam Sea", as per Tuổi Trẻ.

  • In continuation of the report, Vi Kien Thanh, director general of the Vietnam Cinema Department which comes under the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism, confirmed the ban on 3 July, stating it was decided by Vietnam’s National Film Evaluation Council.

Warner Bros' 'Barbie' has been banned in Vietnam over the controversial nine-dash line.

Vi Kien Thanh, director general of the Vietnam Cinema Department.

(Photo Courtesy: Twitter)

"We do not grant a licence for the American movie Barbie to release in Vietnam because it contains the offending image of the nine-dash line," Tuổi Trẻ quoted Vi Kien Thanh.
  • Warner Bros has not yet reacted to the controversy or released an official statement on the same.

  • While it remains unclear whether the production house would be willing to make edits in the film's final cut, the Vietnamese government has also not laid down conditions under which the ban would be lifted.

0

Warner Bros' Response to the Controversy

Warner Bros has responded to the controversy, saying that the now-controversial map in the Barbie trailer was more of a "child-like" drawing and not intended as a statement.

Warner Bros' 'Barbie' has been banned in Vietnam over the controversial nine-dash line.

A screengrab from Barbie's official trailer.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

As per a report by Variety, a spokesperson for the Warner Bros Film Group shared on 6 July, "The doodles depict Barbie’s make-believe journey from Barbie Land to the ‘real world.'"

"The map in Barbie Land is a child-like crayon drawing. It was not intended to make any type of statement," the spokesperson told the publication.

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

The Origin of the Nine-Dash Line

The nine-dash line is often used in Chinese maps to show its territorial claims in the South China Sea. And Vietnam is one of the countries that contests China's claims.

  • Following the end of World War 2 in 1940, the Chinese Nationalist Party published a map with a U-shaped line, which originally had eleven dashes.

  • However, in 1952, the eleven-dash line became a nine-dash line, when two out of the eleven dashes were given away to the communist government of North Vietnam as a concession.

  • The U-shape zone, which is spread across 1,931 kilometers south of the Chinese mainland, encompasses 90 per cent of the waters.

  • This zone represents Beijing's claim over the sea and all the land features contained within the line.

Warner Bros' 'Barbie' has been banned in Vietnam over the controversial nine-dash line.

A map of the South China Sea that depicts the nine-dash line.

(Photo Courtesy: Twitter)

  • The Chinese government claims everything inside the zone, including islands and archipelagos, citing "historical rights."

  • For years, Beijing has been building military bases on these artificial islands in the zone and also conducts naval patrols in the area.

  • However, some of the land masses in the zone are also claimed by Southeast Asian countries like Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Taiwan and the Philippines.

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

Why Is the Nine-Dash Line Significant for China & Vietnam?

With pockets of untapped oil and natural gas, the South China Sea is one of the busiest fishing and trading hubs in the world. While the concept of the nine-dash line has been around since 1947 it gained prominence in 2009, when China included the map with the nine-dash line in the documents submitted to the UN during their dispute with Vietnam.

  • Southeast Asian countries like Vietnam, China, Malaysia, Brunei, Taiwan and the Philippines have had disputes over the South China Sea for centuries.

  • The two main points of contention between the nations are the Spratly Islands and the Paracel Islands in the sea.

In 2020, Australia rejected China's maritime claims over the South China Sea and wrote to the United Nations stating, "There is no legal basis for China to draw straight baselines connecting the outermost points of maritime features or ‘island groups’ in the South China Sea."

  • In mid-July 2020, the US government also rejected China's claims over the South China Sea.

  • Earlier, in 2016, an international tribunal in The Hague also ruled against the Chinese claims; however, Beijing did not recognise the judgment.

  • Even today, the nine-dash line remains a matter of dispute, and there is still ambiguity over what it implies.

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

Previous Films Banned By Vietnam

This isn't the first time Vietnam has banned a film over depictions of maps featuring China's nine-dash line. Vietnam has a history of it.

  • In 2019, the nation issued a ban on Dreamworks' animated film, Abominable.

  • The Philippine government had also called for a boycott of the animated film.

  • Netflix's 2021 Australian spy drama Pine Gap was also ordered to be removed from its service in Vietnam. 

  • In 2022, the Tom Holland-starrer Uncharted was also banned by Vietnam for the same reason.

Warner Bros' 'Barbie' has been banned in Vietnam over the controversial nine-dash line.

Uncharted and Abominable were both banned by the Vietnamese government.

(Photo Courtesy: Twitter)

According to Viêt Nam News, the Vietnamese government is also reportedly considering a ban on Christopher Nolan’s biographical drama Oppenheimer, which shares its release date with Greta Gerwig's Barbie.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Read Latest News and Breaking News at The Quint, browse for more from explainers

Topics:   China   Barbie   Vietnam 

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