Warner Bros defends South China Sea map after Vietnam ban

Studio says the ‘child-like crayon drawing’ in Barbie film was not intended to make a political statement.

Barbie has been banned in Vietnam over a scene featuring a map of the South China Sea [File: Jung Yeon-je/AFP]

Warner Bros studio has said a map of the South China Sea in its film Barbie has no political significance after Vietnam announced it would ban the upcoming release for featuring China’s controversial nine-dash line.

Vietnam’s Department of Cinema this week said it would deny a licence for the film, which was due to hit the country’s screens on July 21, over a scene that features a map showing China’s expansive claims over the South China Sea.

“The map in Barbie Land is a whimsical, child-like crayon drawing,” Warner Bros said in a statement on Thursday.

“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.”

Barbie, directed by Greta Gerwig and starring Margot Robbie as Barbie and Ryan Gosling as her boyfriend Ken, is among the most eagerly anticipated films of 2023.

Beijing claims about 90 percent of the South China Sea based on its U-shaped nine-dash line, which overlaps with the exclusive economic zones of a number of Southeast Asian countries including Vietnam.

In 2016, an international tribunal in The Hague ruled that China’s sweeping claims over the waterway have no basis in law.

Vietnam last year banned the Tom Holland film Uncharted over a scene featuring the nine-dash line, after banning the animated movie Abominable for the same reason in 2019.

On Wednesday, Vietnamese authorities announced a probe into the website of K-pop group Blackpink’s tour organiser after fans highlighted a map of the South China Sea showing China’s claims.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies