Warner Bros. Japan Slams Parent Studio for Promoting ‘Barbenheimer’ Poster

A fan-generated image of Margot Robbie’s Barbie celebrating an atomic explosion has been called “extremely regrettable”

Many people plan to see both "Barbie" and "Oppenheimer" the day the movies premiere.
"Barbie" and "Oppenheimer" (Warner Bros./Universal Pictures)

Warner Bros. Japan issued a statement on Monday criticizing its parent U.S. studio’s “extremely regrettable” decision to promote a “Barbenheimer” fan image that show the Barbie character having the time of her life in front of a massive fireball while hoisted on the shoulder of Cillian Murphy’s J. Robert Oppenheimer.

The statement shared to Twitter read, “We consider it extremely regrettable that the official account of the American headquarters for the movie ‘Barbie’ reacted to the social media postings of ‘Barbenheimer’ fans. … We take this situation very seriously. We are asking the U.S. headquarters to take appropriate action. We apologize to those who were offended by this series of inconsiderate reactions. Warner Bros Japan.”

The fan-generated image by Steve Reeves is a mash-up of Greta Gerwig’s upbeat “Barbie” movie and Christopher Nolan’s grim biopic about the birth of the atomic bomb, “Oppenheimer.” (Reeves’ Twitter account is private.)

But that kind of artwork, and the official Barbie Movie account caption, “It’s going to be a summer to remember,” was not well received by in a nation that is still grappling with the devastation of the real-life atomic bombings of World War II.

One Twitter user responded, “Just as we Japanese must not forget Pearl Harbour, you Americans must not forget Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Japan and the United States of America, once enemies, are now dear friends across the Pacific. I find these film advertisements very sad.” Others shared images of bombing victims.

Warner Bros. Film Group responded late Monday night with the following statement: “Warner Brothers regrets its recent insensitive social media engagement. The studio offers a sincere apology.”

There were similar issues when Michael Bay’s “Pearl Harbor” film came out in 2001. Long before social media, Entertainment Weekly was slammed for running a cover story headline that read, “Romance! Heroism! Stuff Blowing Up!”