ANALYSIS – China’s outrageous claim to almost the entire South China Sea – everything within a “nine-dash line” drawn on Chinese maps – has taken its most recent victim – the movie-viewing public in Vietnam. The Vietnamese government has banned the movie due to a scene with that Chinese-made line on a map.
China takes its illegal claim very seriously and strives to impose its visual representation on maps everywhere, including those appearing in Hollywood movies.
While it’s unclear why the soon-to-be-released film ‘Barbie’ about the iconic doll and her boyfriend Ken would get embroiled in international politics, it has.
This south China Sea has been a flashpoint between Vietnam and China for years. The artificial line is shown on Chinese maps to mark their claims over the area despite Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia, and Taiwan claiming parts of the same vast expanse of sea.
Chinese warships and fishing vessels routinely operate in these waters to establish de-facto presence, often provoking clashes with neighboring countries.
The Daily Wire (DW) reported:
“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,” Vi Kien Thanh, head of the Department of Cinema, a government body in charge of licensing and censoring foreign films, was quoted as saying in the state-run Tuoi Tre newspaper.
The movie’s trailer shows Barbie leaving her perfect doll world and to explore the “real world” after becoming disillusioned with her life.
So why did a big Hollywood studio decide to include this ridiculous claim in their otherwise non-political movies?
All I can think of is – in order to please the communists in Beijing. China is obviously a far bigger market than Vietnam. And who knows if Chinese investors were involved in the movie’s production.
“Barbie” isn’t the first film banned for including the nine-dash line. The Vietnamese government also blocked the DreamWorks animated film “Abominable” (2019) and the action-adventure film “Unchartered” (2022) for the same reason. Netflix removed the Australian spy drama “Pine Gap” in 2021 for their inclusion of the line.
Hollywood blockbusters including the Marvel films “Eternals” and “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” have also been in China after directors or actors involved in the films made comments critical of China.
Another big controversy exploded in 2019 over the Tom Cruise movie ‘Top Gun: Maverick.’ Initially the movie appeared to remove the flags of Taiwan and Japan from Maverick’s flight jacket. The flags were part of historical patches representing prior U.S. naval deployments to the region.
As NBC News reported:
In 2019, the trailer for “Top Gun: Maverick” showed Cruise’s character, U.S. Navy pilot Pete Mitchell, in the same bomber jacket he wore in the original film. But two of its flag patches — representing Japan and the Republic of China, the official name for Taiwan — appeared to have been replaced by other emblems.
The move was criticized at the time as an act of self-censorship to please China’s censors. Beijing sees Taiwan, a self-ruling democracy of 24 million people, as an inalienable part of its territory and lashes out at any reference to it as a sovereign nation.
In this case Hollywood, or Cruise, had a change of heart and reversed their apparent kowtowing to China. CHinese investors also pulled out of the movie.
NBC News continued:
On the film’s release last month after a two-year pandemic delay, both flags had been restored. At an advance screening in Taipei, the audience broke out in cheers and applause at the sight of the Taiwanese flag on the big screen, local news outlet SETN reported.
Sometimes in Hollywood the good guys do win. Sadly, not in the case of Barbie.
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