By Danielle Broadway
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Warner Bros studio on Thursday said a map in its upcoming “Barbie” movie of the South China Sea is a “child-like” drawing with no intended significance, days after Vietnam said it would ban the film over the map.
Vietnam balked at a scene of the map that shows China’s unilaterally claimed territory in the South China Sea, state media reported on Monday. It decided to ban domestic distribution of the highly anticipated film starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling.
Warner Bros believed the map was harmless.
“The map in Barbie Land is a whimsical, child-like crayon drawing,” the studio said in a statement. “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” was originally slated to open in Vietnam on July 21, the same date as in the United States, according to state-run Tuoi Tre newspaper.
Vietnamese authorities objected to a scene showing a map that includes the so-called nine-dash line, the newspaper said. The U-shaped line is used on Chinese maps to illustrate China’s claims over vast areas of the South China Sea, including swaths of what Vietnam considers its continental shelf, where it has awarded oil concessions.
“We do not grant license for the American movie ‘Barbie’ to release in Vietnam because it contains the offending image of the nine-dash line,” the newspaper reported, citing Vi Kien Thanh, head of the Department of Cinema, a government body in charge of licensing and censoring foreign films.
“Barbie” is the latest movie to be banned in Vietnam for depicting China’s nine-dash line, which was repudiated in an international arbitration ruling by a court in The Hague in 2016. China refuses to recognize the ruling.
This week, Vietnam also opened an investigation of the website of K-pop group Blackpink’s tour organiser, ahead of the group’s concert in Hanoi, over criticism from fans that it shows a map of the South China Sea with disputed boundaries.
(Reporting by Danielle Broadway and Lisa Richwine in Los Angeles; Editing by Mary Milliken and Matthew Lewis)