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‘Taste your own medicine’: Japanese Twitter users post 9/11 memes after the West trends ‘Barbenheimer’ memes featuring atomic bombs

ICYDK: Not everyone appreciates the bomb promotion (hehe) that people have been doing in support of the blockbuster films Barbie and Oppenheimer.

The Barbenheimer trenda portmanteau of the two summer blockbuster films “Barbie,” a fantasy comedy by director Greta Gerwig about the famous doll, and “Oppenheimer,” the biographical thriller by Christoper Nolan about J. Robert Oppenheimer, has been met with much acclaim on the internet and has generated a culture never seen before.

While both movies were originally pitted against each other, the internet began endorsing it as a “double feature concept”. Celebrities and stars of both films have also reacted positively towards the “Barbenheimer” phenom, and “Oppenheimer” lead himself Cillian Murphy told La Vanguardia that his advice for people is to see both movies on the same day. “If they are good films, then that’s cinema’s gain.”

However, in stark contrast to the huge amount of love that the “Barbenheimer” trend is receiving in the West, the Japanese audience is less than pleased about the hype and the atomic bomb memes. On August 1, 2023, The Warner Bros. Film Group made a public apology for their “insensitive social media engagement” surrounding the “Barbenheimer” phenomenon, which has been a cause for great offense in Japan.

The Nolan-directed biographical film about the life of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the “father of the atomic bomb” has not been released in Japan. Usually, foreign films would be shown in Asian countries months or a year later than in the rest of the world, but experts in the country say otherwise. Local distributors are said to be “just waiting for the anniversary of the atomic bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to pass,” as it would be distasteful in the eyes of the public for the movie to be released prior to these dates.

“Japan, as a country that suffered atomic bombings, has the right to evaluate this work on the subject of the development of the atomic bomb,” said Akihiko Reizei in an opinion article for Newsweek magazine.

The atomic bombing of Hiroshima happened on August 6, 1945, while Nagasaki was bombed 3 days later. Following the bombings of the two Japanese cities, Japan surrendered to the Allied forces on August 15, 1945, and the war effectively ended (in Asia) on September 2, 1945. The bombings (including their aftereffects) were estimated to have killed 129,000-226,000 people, mostly civilians.

Being the only country where atomic bombs have been used on, Japan took severe offense to the Barbenheimer memes circulating on the internet. Images including mushroom clouds of an atomic bomb were deemed offensive in Japan and prompted the Japanese branch of Warner Bros. to condemn the actions and replies of the U.S. headquarters.

Thus leading to the Warner Bros. Film Group’s public apology.

Japanese Twitter users also tried giving Western Twitter a “taste of their own medicine,” or using 9/11 references in the Barbie memes to get the West to understand why the atomic bomb references were offensive to them.

As of writing, the #NoBarbenheimer tag is trending in Japan over the backlash against the biographical film “Oppenheimer.” Barbie” is set to be released in Japan on August 11, 2023.



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