The animated film “Barbie,” featuring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, has been prohibited from release in Vietnam due to the inclusion of a controversial scene depicting a map representing China’s disputed territorial claims in the South China Sea, according to state reports on Monday.
China utilizes a U-shaped depiction known as the “nine-dash line” on its maps to lay claim over large sections of the potentially resource-rich region in the South China Sea.
Initially, the “Barbie” film was planned for simultaneous release in Vietnam and the United States on July 21, as reported by the state-run Tuoi Tre newspaper.
Vi Kien Thanh, the head of the Department of Cinema, a government entity responsible for the regulation and censorship of foreign films, stated that the movie would not be permitted to air in Vietnam due to the contentious nine-dash line representation, according to the paper.
The nine-dash line, shown on Chinese maps, lays claim to extensive areas of the South China Sea, which includes sectors that Vietnam regards as part of its continental shelf, where it has given out oil concessions.
The decision to ban “Barbie” follows a trend in Vietnam, as the film is the latest to be disallowed for its portrayal of China’s disputed nine-dash line. This territorial claim was rejected in an international arbitration judgment by a court in The Hague in 2016, but China has refused to acknowledge the decision.
In the past, Vietnam has disallowed other films for the same reason, including DreamWorks’ “Abominable” in 2019, Sony’s “Unchartered” last year, and Netflix was compelled to remove the Australian spy series “Pine Gap” in 2021.
Warner Bros, the producer of “Barbie,” has not yet responded to a request for comment on the matter.
There has been a long-standing territorial dispute between Vietnam and China over areas in the South China Sea rich in potential energy resources. Vietnam has frequently accused Chinese vessels of infringing upon its sovereignty.