Barbie movie banned in Vietnam over use of ‘offending’ map image

The Barbie film will not be released in Vietnam over its apparent inclusion of a controversial marking in a map of the South China Sea.

Starring Margot Robbie as the iconic doll, Barbie was scheduled to be released in the southeast Asian country on 21 July, in line with its cinematic debut in most countries across the world.

However, state media announced on Monday that the movie will no longer be distributed in Vietnam due to the depiction of a map that uses the “nine-dash line”.

The U-shaped line, used on Chinese maps, represents areas that China has claimed as its territory.

First shown on a map in 1947, the nine-dash line is controversial as the area specified as Chinese territory is contested and includes a significant area that Vietnam considers its continental shelf.

China and Vietnam have long been in a standoff over the region, while Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam all make claims to parts of the sea.

As reported by Reuters, the Vietnamese state-run newspaper Tuoi Tre said that due to its use of a map depicting this territorial shape, Barbie will no longer be released in the country.

Vi Kien Thanh, head of the department of cinema in Vietnam, was quoted in the publication as saying: “We do not grant license for the American movie Barbie to release in Vietnam because it contains the offending image of the nine-dash line.”

Ryan Gosling and Margot Robbie as Ken and Barbie (Warner Bros)
Ryan Gosling and Margot Robbie as Ken and Barbie (Warner Bros)

The Independent has reached out to Warner Bros, Barbie’s distributor, for comment.

This is not the first time that the Vietnamese government has decided to halt a film’s release due to the inclusion of the nine-dash line.

Last year, Sony's action movie Uncharted was pulled for the same reason, as well as the DreamWorks animated film Abominable in 2019. Netflix also removed an Australian spy drama series, Pine Gap, from streaming services in 2021.

Ahead of the film’s highly anticipated release, cast members have been stoking fans’ excitement with their promotional efforts.

Ryan Gosling, who plays Barbie’s companion Ken, has been praised for fully embracing the happy-go-lucky energy of his character throughout the press tour.

Robbie, meanwhile, has shared some insider knowledge about the creation of the film, including how they managed to achieve a “genius” shot of Barbie’s foot, as seen in the trailer, and a “jaw-dropping” joke that was cut from page one of the script.

Barbie will be released in UK cinemas on 21 July.