‘Barbie’ Cleared for Release in Philippines After Review of Controversial Map’s Inclusion

Officials say the movie can be shown in theaters after concluding a cartoonish map in the film does not depict the “nine-dash line”

Barbie Movie Trailer Margot Robbie
From left, Simu Liu, Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling in "Barbie." (Warner Bros.)

After an extensive review of “Barbie” and the film’s inclusion of a controversial South China Sea map, the government of the Philippines has concluded that the cartoonish drawing simply depicts a “make-believe journey” of Barbie Land.

Therefore, the movie now has clearance to be shown in Philippine theaters, government officials said Wednesday.

The government said it conducted two review sessions, thorough deliberations and consultations with relevant government agencies, including a legal expert on the West Philippine Sea to reach its conclusion. 

“Considering the context by which the cartoonish map of the character ‘Weird Barbie’ was portrayed in the film, the review committee is convinced that the contentious scene does not depict the ‘nine-dash line,’” the government’s Movie and Television Review and Classification Board said in a statement Wednesday. 

Instead, the board said, the map portrayed the route of the make-believe journey of Barbie from Barbie Land to the “real world,” as an integral part of the story.

“Rest assured that the Board has exhausted all possible resources in arriving at this decision as we have not hesitated in the past to sanction filmmakers/ producers/distributors for exhibiting the fictitious ‘nine-dash line’ in their materials,” the board said.

However, the government officials issued a stern warning to “all filmmakers, producers, and distributors”  that the country will not hesitate to sanction or ban films that exhibit the “nine-dash line,” which a disputed Chinese territorial claim.

Last week, Vietnam banned the movie, while a spokesperson for U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz piled on criticism.

“China wants to control what Americans see, hear, and ultimately think,” a spokesperson for Cruz said, “and they leverage their massive film markets to coerce American companies into pushing Chinese Communist Party propaganda — just like the way the Barbie film seems to have done with the map.”

Warner Bros. said in a statement last week that the map was simply a “child-like crayon drawing” of Barbie Land.