Updated Jul 12, 2023, 1:23pm EDT
mediaSoutheast Asia

‘Barbie’ will not be banned in the Philippines after ‘meticulous review’

REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

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The News

The Philippines decided that it will not ban Barbie from being shown in the country after a “meticulous review” of a map of the South China Sea that’s depicted in the upcoming Greta Gerwig movie.

At the center of the controversy was the “nine-dash line” — a U-shaped line on the map which outlines China’s territorial claim in the region that isn’t recognized globally.

Philippines’ Movie and Television Review and Classification Board said Wednesday that after consulting “a legal expert on the West Philippines Sea,” it was “convinced” that the world map in the movie does not actually depict the “nine-dash line” — but instead “portrayed the route of a make-believe journey of Barbie from Barbie Land to the ‘real world,’ as an integral part of the story.”

The government will instead issue a PG13 rating for the film.

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The film, which stars Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling as Barbie and Ken, sparked debate on social media and among countries in the South China Sea for its depiction of the “nine-dash line” on the world map.


In a letter shared with reporters, the Philippines’ censorship board said that the Southeast Asian country, along with Malaysia and Indonesia, “are not visible on the map,” adding that they would not hesitate to sanction or ban any film or filmmakers who inaccurately portray the controversial boundary along the South China Sea.

The board also said they had asked Warner Bros. to “blur” the lines on the map in the film, but it is unclear whether the production company has agreed to this.

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The View From Vietnam

Vietnam, on the other hand, moved swiftly to ban the film.

Vi Kien Thanh, head of the Department of Cinema, a government body that decides on the licensing and censoring of foreign films, called the depiction of the territorial line an “offending image.”

The energy-rich strip in the South China Sea remains a contentious issue between China and Vietnam, with Hanoi repeatedly accusing Chinese ships of “violating its sovereignty,” Reuters reports.

In a statement to Variety, a spokesperson for Warner Bros. Film Group said that the map in Barbie Land is “a child-like crayon drawing.”

“The doodles depict Barbie’s make-believe journey from Barbie Land to the ‘real world.’ It was not intended to make any type of statement.”