Barbie will not be banned in the Philippines despite a small kerfuffle over a map that ignited countless clickbait headlines worldwide.
If you spent any time online last week, you probably saw lots of stories with colorful pictures of Barbie star Margot Robbie and the announcement that Barbie had been “banned” overseas. Perhaps you were under the impression that something shockingly risqué happens in Barbie.
But no, that was just to get you to click. And it worked on a lot of people.
Why Was Barbie Banned Anywhere?
The truth is that Vietnam banned Barbie from release over a sequence that some viewers believed showed a map depicting the “nine-dash line,” a marking that reflects China’s disputed territorial claims.
Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei all object to China’s claims, and a tribunal at The Hague said in 2016 that China has no legal basis for the claims. This has not stopped China from continuing to make them.
(This is boring, right? You thought maybe this was going to be about Barbie doing something shocking? No.)
After a week of reviewing the matter, the Philippines’ Movie and Television Review and Classification Board said it accepts that the cartoonish map shown in the fun summer comedy is not intended to depict the nine-dash line, but in fact portrays (spoilers!) “the route of the make-believe journey of Barbie from Barbie Land to the ‘real world,’ as an integral part of the story,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.
The Phillipines have also asked Warner Bros. to distort to the map image to ensure that it isn’t misinterpreted, but Warner Bros. has yet to comment on whether it will agree to that request.
Barbie, in which Robbie stars as the fictional living doll, co-stars Ryan Gosling as Ken and boasts a robust supporting cast including Kate McKinnon, Issa Rae, Will Ferrell, Simu Liu, Michael Cera, America Ferrera, Emma Mackey, and more. Its directed by Greta Gerwig from a screenplay by Gerwig and Noah Baumbach.
So Nothing Risqué at All?
Far from pushing the envelope with anything risqué that could get her film banned, Robbie has said her character shouldn’t be sexualized.
“She’s a doll. She’s a plastic doll. She doesn’t have organs. If she doesn’t have organs, she doesn’t have reproductive organs. If she doesn’t have reproductive organs, would she even feel sexual desire? No, I don’t think she could,” she told Vogue.
She elaborated that the character “is sexualized. But she should never be sexy. People can project sex onto her. Yes, she can wear a short skirt, but because it’s fun and pink. Not because she wanted you to see her butt.”
While We’re Here, What Is Barbenheimer?
Because it shares a release date, July 21, with the Christopher Nolan biopic Oppenheimer, many on social media have joked about (or actually committed to) Barbenheimer, making a double feature of the fun, comedic Barbie movie and the serious Nolan epic about the father of the atom bomb.
Barbenheimer has taken on such cultural resonance that it even has a Wikipedia page, before the release of either film.
Given that Oppenheimer is about the creation of a weapon that dropped on Japan, twice, bringing a horrific end to the war in the Pacific, we would probably have guessed that Oppenheimer, and not a cute movie about a doll coming to life, would be the one to incite international discussion.
But no, life is unpredictable, as both Barbie and Oppenheimer can attest.
Barbie is in theaters July 21, the same day as Oppenheimer. It seems like we all have some tough decisions to make.