Barbie is just the latest Hollywood film to get caught in the crossfire of Asian geopolitics

Actress Margot Robbie as Barbie. Credit – Warner Bros. Pictures

THE Barbie the movie was meant to be for everyone. ‘If you love Barbie, this movie is for you,’ trailer from Warner Bros.’ summer blockbuster declares. “If you hate Barbie, this movie is for you.”

But just weeks before the star-studded movie about the titular doll hits theaters, some in Southeast Asia decided it wasn’t for them.

Vietnamese authorities announced on Monday that the film distribution of Barbie would be banned over the display of a map that includes the controversial ‘nine-dash line’, a disputed maritime border that China has used to lay claim to almost all of the south. from China. Mer, although it was rejected by an international tribunal in 2016.

Philippine authorities, also concerned about promoting the “nine-dash line”, are currently deliberating whether or not to allow the film to be released. “The film is fiction, and so is the nine-dash line. At a minimum, our theaters should include an explicit disclaimer stating that the nine-dash line is a figment of China’s imagination,” said Philippine Senator Risa Hontiveros. said Tuesday.

<classe étendue="droits d'auteur">Photograph by Carlota Guerrero for TIME</span>” data-src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTEyODA-/ ad090ff”/ ><noscript><img alt=Photograph by Carlota Guerrero for TIME” src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTEyODA-/ 090ff” class=” caas-img”/>

Photograph by Carlota Guerrero for TIME

Learn more: How Barbie Came to life

The background to the alleged depiction of the nine-dash line in the new Barbie movie is not clear. But this isn’t the first time this kind of censorship has happened over similar concerns.

Last year, the Philippines and Vietnam both banned screenings of Sony’s action-adventure flick Unexplored because of a brief scene depicting the controversial nine-dash line. And in 2019, the Philippines and Malaysia, another country contesting China’s territorial claims to the waterway, halted domestic distribution of the DreamWorks animated film. Abominable after the producers refused a request to remove a scene showing the nine-dash line. (In Vietnam, Abominable had already been out in theaters for over a week before censors pulled it and fined the film’s distributor.) In 2018, a second long clip, which featured a designer handbag with a card showing islands in the South China Sea under Chinese control, was cut from boobies rich asian screenings in Vietnam.

It’s not just the big screen that’s under scrutiny. In 2021, Philippine authorities ordered Netflix to remove certain episodes of the Australian spy drama pine hole due to scenes containing the nine-dash line, while Vietnam ordered the entire series removed from the streamer.

Repeated occurrences of the same issue raise questions about Hollywood’s relationship with China, which controls a market of 1.4 billion people. China has played a vital role in the global box office success of many contemporary films, and the studios have been known to pander to Beijing’s own harsh censors so as not to be shut out.

Recently, however, Hollywood studios have started to get pushed back for their acquiescence to China. The trailer for Tom Cruise’s 2022 movie Top Gun: Maverick initially removed the Taiwanese and Japanese flags to appease Chinese censors, but following public backlash the flags reappeared in the film.

A memo from the US Department of Defense obtained by POLITICO last week said producers would not receive support from the Pentagon – which typically assists films and shows that depict the military or require filming on bases – if they edit their films to comply with Chinese censorship demands.

According to Richard Heydarian, political analyst and senior lecturer in Asian affairs at the University of the Philippines. Outright bans come at a price: Viewers are thrilled to see long-awaited Hollywood blockbusters miss out, and it puts censoring countries in the spotlight for what Heydarian says could be seen as a “little hypersensitivity.”

But getting attention is the goal. “Sunlight is the best disinfectant,” Heydarian says. “Vietnam reminds the world that Chinese state propaganda should have no place in supposedly innocuous productions like Barbie movies. It just doesn’t make sense.

Leave a Comment