Philippines Allows Barbie Film with Blurred South China Sea Map

Image copyright: Wikimedia Commons

The Facts

  • Government censors in the Philippines said on Wednesday that they will allow the "Barbie" movie to be shown in theaters after asking the movie's distributor to blur lines on a world map drawing that allegedly endorsed China's territorial claims to the disputed South China Sea.

  • The film was banned in Vietnam for allegedly showing the "nine-dash line" on a map. The line is used by China to assert its internationally rejected claims in the South China Sea, where Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Brunei also have competing claims.

The Spin

Narrative A

Philippine censors did not arrive at the decision to allow the screening of the Barbie film lightly and meticulously reviewed the film to ensure it did not depict the fictitious nine-dash-line. In past situations, regulators have been more than willing to sanction filmmakers, producers, and distributors for exhibiting the fictitious ‘nine-dash line’ in their materials, and popular films have recently been banned from being shown in the country. Manilla exercised due diligence and fairness here.

Narrative B

This whole controversy is absurd. The map in the Barbie movie was obviously a childish drawing of a world map and not a divisive political statement. The film is about a children's toy come to life and it is mindboggling that such a small moment in such an inoffensive film was taken so seriously as a geopolitical controversy.

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