Damn cards. From Barbie to Uncharted, those who touch boundaries ‘die’

Never before have geographical maps been so fleeting as in East Asia. The boundaries change depending on your point of view. But also names. What China calls the South China Sea becomes (partially) the Philippine Sea near Manila. Or the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands are called Diaoyu in Beijing instead. China itself has presented a map from China’s Ministry of Natural Resources that includes the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, as well as the disputed Aksai Chin plateau, within Chinese territory rather than falling within Indian territory. That is why touching on such controversial topics can lead to unpleasant consequences. Or even lose several million, as happened with one of the main films of the summer of 2023: Barbie.

Barbie, movie

What happened to Greta Gerwig’s movie starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling? Yes, it was a global success combined with Oppenheimer Christopher Nolan also credits the promotional idea of ​​Warner Bros, which launched the hashtag #Barbenheimer to encourage double-viewing (an idea that has proven counterproductive in Japan, given the boycott campaign launched by many against the film, which risks exonerating the inventor of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki). However, the film about the most famous doll in the world was not released in Vietnam.

Vietnam says goodbye to Barbie

The decision was made by the government of the Southeast Asian country because of a scene in which a map appears showing territory unilaterally claimed by China in the South China Sea. This is the famous U-shaped “nine-dash line” used on Chinese maps to illustrate China’s claims to vast areas of the sea where cross-disputes with the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and Vietnam remain unresolved. On the map, which appears in a very short segment of the film, Vietnam is convinced that the Chinese demarcation also contained part of the territory that Hanoi considers part of its continental shelf and where it has also granted oil concessions. Moreover, the waters disputed between Beijing and Hanoi are rich in natural resources. The film’s distributor, Warner Bros., defended the map image, saying it was a “whimsical and childish crayon drawing.” We add that “the drawings depict Barbie’s imaginary journey from Barbie Land to the real world. They did not intend to make any statements,” the studio said. It wasn’t enough. This is, of course, not the first time. In 2019, the Vietnamese government withdrew the animated film. disgusting DreamWorks banned the action film last year unknown Sony for the same reason. Netflix also had to cancel the Australian spy drama Pine Gap in 2021.


Even Blackpink is in danger

The same thing often happened in the Philippines. Manila banned distribution last year unknown The sequence in which the disputed map appears is “contrary to national security,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said at the time. In conjunction with the film’s release, major joint military exercises were also held between the two militaries of the Philippines and the United States, also in response to the prolonged presence of dozens of Chinese ships in waters claimed by Manila. In the vast majority of cases, the intentions of those presenting the cards are certainly not political. But the sensitivity of various governments to this issue is very high, and millions of eyes online are closely watching every slightest violation of “national dignity.” Even Blackpink, the most famous girl group in the world and a global symbol of K-Pop, risked being embroiled in such a case. The South Korean superstars’ concert in Hanoi in late July was in the balance for days after censors spotted a map on their website that appeared to support China’s claim to the Paracelsus Islands. A Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman called the map on the iME promoter’s website a “hot issue”, adding that it was “unacceptable”. Organizers of Blackpink’s concert in Vietnam apologized and changed their image, allowing the case to be returned, which was also requested by many fans of South Korean entertainment products present in Vietnam. Many Vietnamese consumers see South Korean trends as ambitious, from K-pop-inspired hairstyles to cosmetics. Simply placing the word “Han Quoc” (“Korean” in Vietnamese) on a product label is a form of marketing and is synonymous with quality.

Whirlpools of the China Sea

The topic is very sensitive and has clearly been transferred from the screen to reality. The most developing scenario is related to Vietnam. The war in Ukraine has caused serious concern in Hanoi, which historically imports most of its weapons from Russia. Hanoi needs new suppliers and “protection” in the event of open territorial disputes with Beijing. This is where the US comes into play, sending an aircraft carrier to Da Nang, a city opposite the disputed Paracelsus archipelago, in recent months. China responded by increasing naval maneuvers in the area. In August, tensions between China and the Philippines began to rise again. Just think of the water cannons deployed by the Chinese coast guard against Philippine ships trying to supply a military outpost set up at the site of a World War II shipwreck stranded on a disputed atoll. Indeed, film history. However, it is best to avoid showing too many cards.

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