Where were you when the local government announced that they were going to review the much-awaited “Barbie” movie?
On July 3, 2023, Vietnam announced that the country will not be commercially releasing the Greta Gerwig-directed film due to the film’s representation of a map that shows China’s so-called “nine-dash line.” A.K.A., the map showed China’s territorial claims over the South China Sea, most commonly known in the PH as the West Philippine Sea.a
Apart from Vietnam and the Philippines, other countries like Brunei, Malaysia, and Indonesia have disputes with China over the “nine-dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands, ruled in favor of the Philippines in its arbitration case against China—a landmark victory for the Philippines at the time.
China has rejected this ruling since the decision was made and has continued with its activities in the region. Since Vietnam’s move to ban the movie from being shown to the general public, the Philippine government has also been pressuring to follow in their neighbor’s footsteps.
Vice Chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee Sen. Francis Tolentino said, “if the invalidated 9-dash line was indeed depicted in the movie ‘Barbie’, then it is incumbent upon the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) to ban the same as it denigrates Philippine sovereignty.”
On July 4, 2023, the MTRCB said that they were examining the movie. As of writing, no decision has been made yet.
Since talks of the ‘Barbie’ movie possibly being banned in the Philippines flared up, Filipinos online had some things to say about it.
While it’s sad to not be able to see the movie that will give us an insane amount of childhood whiplash (for all the Barbie lovers out there), it’s a good call to ban the local release of ‘Barbie’ for this reason.
It’s also not the first time that a foreign movie wasn’t shown in the Philippines for this reason—in 2019, DreamWorks Animation and Pearl Studio animated film, ‘Abominable’ was banned in the PH, Malaysia, and Vietnam for showing the nine-dash line. In 2022, the Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg-led film ‘Uncharted’ was also banned because the film showed a treasure map that detailed the nine-dash line.
You might be wondering, after all the hype that the ‘Barbie’ movie has built up in the Philippines, why are most people in favor of banning the movie altogether? Well, it’s quite simple actually—would you tolerate it when your country keeps on getting misrepresented and disrespected no matter how many times you keep telling them to get it right?
Of course not. We, as Filipinos, cannot and should not tolerate something so important to the psyche of our nation. Since 2016, we’ve been telling the whole world that China’s claims have no basis and that the “existence” of such claims has been undermining the Philippines’ sovereignty and autonomy.
It’s time for us to stand up to the West, who can’t seem to get their history and geography materials updated, aside from their side of the world, and to educate them into getting Asian geography right and to set things straight. Seriously though, it doesn’t hurt to do much research even for a prop in the background.
Yes, we Barbie girls are sad about this, but our identity and sovereignty are much more important than being the Barbie girls we’ve all dreamed of.
Oh, but at the same time, this is a call-out to our own government. If we’re doing this only because Vietnam did so, then this whole thing is just performative. We call on you to extend this action to actually helping out our own fishermen who keep getting endangered in OUR waters.
However, while the MTRCB is still deliberating whether to screen the ‘Barbie’ movie in the Philippines, there are still those who clamor for its local release, actively preferring to enjoy the fictional movie without involving politics.
Warner Bros. has already responded to the issue concerning the 9-dash line, claiming that the movie only depicts “Barbie’s make-believe journey from Barbie Land to the ‘real world'” and was not intended to make any type of political statement.
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