The eagerly anticipated ‘Barbie’ movie, produced by Warner Bros and starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, has been prohibited from distribution in Vietnam. This unexpected turn of events is due to a scene in the film displaying a controversial map depicting the Chinese territorial claims, also known as the “nine-dash line,” in the South China Sea.

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The nine-dash line is a demarcation used by China to assert its sovereignty over substantial sections of the South China Sea. This claim is ardently disputed by various countries, including Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Brunei, with each nation putting forth their own territorial claims in the region. Despite the international tribunal in The Hague ruling against the validity of the nine-dash line in 2016, China continues to disregard the judgment.

Vi Kien Thanh, head of the Department of Cinema in Vietnam, a governmental agency responsible for licensing and censoring foreign films, confirmed the ban, stating, “We do not grant a license for the American movie ‘Barbie’ to release in Vietnam because it contains the offending image of the nine-dash line.” The state-run Tuoi Tre newspaper reported this announcement.

The ‘Barbie’ film is not the first to face this kind of censorship in Vietnam. Prior to this, in 2019, DreamWorks’ animated film ‘Abominable’ was pulled from Vietnamese theaters for featuring the nine-dash line. Last year, the Sony action film ‘Uncharted’ suffered a similar fate, and Netflix’s Australian spy drama ‘Pine Gap’ was also removed from its platform in the country following official complaints.

The disputed South China Sea is one of the world’s most strategically crucial waterways, rich in oil, gas, and fisheries. It’s also a significant trading route to Southeast Asian markets. The dispute over territorial claims in this area has sparked significant international controversy.

The Barbie movie, which was originally due for release on July 21st in Vietnam, has gained considerable attention on social media and was set to be one of the year’s biggest releases. The film’s production, set designs, and star-studded cast have contributed to the hype, making this ban even more significant.

The Greta Gerwig-directed film, noted for its vast amounts of pink paint used in set creation, is part of a recent trend of high-profile movies running afoul of Vietnamese censors for displaying the disputed nine-dash line. As of now, Warner Bros has not responded to requests for comment on the matter, and it is unclear how the contentious map made its way into the film in the first place.

Despite the disappointment of Vietnamese fans and the expected financial hit for Warner Bros, the Barbie film will still be released in other markets on July 21st as planned. The movie also features an all-star soundtrack with music from Lizzo, Dua Lipa, Nicki Minaj, Ice Spice, and Charli XCX, adding another layer of allure to this upcoming release.

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