Vietnam already wants to ban the "Barbie" movie. Will the Philippines follow?

The same issue that got the Tom Holland film "Uncharted" banned has come up yet again with "Barbie"

By Joy Saha

Staff Writer
Published July 5, 2023 2:15PM (EDT)
Updated July 6, 2023 5:04PM (EDT)
Margot Robbie as Barbie in “Barbie” (Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)
Margot Robbie as Barbie in “Barbie” (Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)

Following Vietnam's decision to ban Greta Gerwig's upcoming "Barbie" movie, the Philippines is debating whether they'll follow suit — or release the anticipated film with a few edits. In the same vein as Vietnam's National Film Evaluation Council, film regulators in the Philippines took issue with the film's depiction of a map that includes the "nine dash line," a controversial U-shaped representation of China's territorial claims in the South China Sea. The Philippines, alongside Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia, have strongly opposed the line segments, claiming they violate their sovereignty.

"If the invalidated nine-dash line was indeed depicted in the movie 'Barbie,' then it is incumbent upon the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) to ban the same as it denigrates Philippine sovereignty," said Philippines Senator Francis Tolentino, vice chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, per Variety. The MTRCB is currently reviewing the film, saying in a statement that "the assigned Committee on First Review is deliberating on the request of Warner Brothers F.E. Inc. for a Permit to Exhibit. Once available, a copy of the Permit to Exhibit or the Committee's decision will be uploaded to the Agency's official website." Senators are also willing to ask Warner Bros. to edit out the questionable scene in "Barbie," though it's not yet known if the studio would agree to the request. This isn't the first time Vietnam and the Philippines have banned films for showing China's preferred map: Sony's "Uncharted," the action flick starring Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg, was blocked in both countries for the same reason.

On Thursday, a spokesperson for the Warner Bros. Film Group told Variety that the "Barbie" map is "a child-like crayon drawing" that depicts "Barbie's make-believe journey from Barbie Land to the 'real world.'" Sources close to the film explained that the map is given to Margot Robbie's Barbie by Kate McKinnon's Weird Barbie, who encourages the former to go on a journey of self-discovery. Thus, the serial dashes on the map are described as "journey lines." They are not meant to represent the nine-dash line; it's worth mentioning that the "Barbie" map only features eight lines — and they are certainly not "intended to make any type of statement."