What the Alleged “Nine-Dash Line” in “Barbie” Really Is: Warner Bros. Clarifies

Ahead of its premiere, the “Barbie” movie is currently under review by the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB). This comes after Vietnam’s decision to ban the Greta Gerwig film due to a scene that includes a map that appears to depict the controversial nine-dash line.

What was on the controversial map in the “Barbie” movie?

In its official trailer, the Barbie character played by Margot Robbie is seen standing in front of the map in question, while conversing with the Weird Barbie character played by Kate McKinnon. Behind her, the words “World Map” along with “Africa” and “Asia” are scribbled in chalk on a blue board. Waves, boats, and other elements can also be seen on it suggesting that it is a map of the world. Although, while there are also shapes that can be translated as land areas or continents, it is evidently geographically incorrect to adults. And on the right side of the shape labeled “Asia,” there is a curved line made up of only 8 dashes, which sparked the controversy.

Screen Shot 2023 07 09 at 1.20.49 PM

Screen captured from the official trailer of “Barbie” (2023)


What is the “nine-dash” line and why did Vietnam ban the “Barbie” movie over it?

A U-shaped nine-dash line across the South China Sea on a world map represents China’s territorial claims in the area, involving nearby countries Vietnam, Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, and the Philippines. According to Time, it was “first inscribed on a Chinese map in 1947 ” but had “no legal basis for maritime claims.”

In dispute of these claims, Vietnam’s National Film Evaluation Council deemed it necessary to pull the commercial screenings of “Barbie” in their country. The “offending image” in the abovementioned scene of the film reportedly “violates its sovereignty.”

What does the alleged “nine-dash line” in the “Barbie” movie map really mean?

Despite the close resemblance to China’s nine-dash line, Warner Bros. Pictures clarified on July 6 that the prop’s design does NOT represent the demarcation. A spokesperson from the studio set the record straight during an interview with Variety.

“The map in Barbie Land is a child-like crayon drawing,” they said, without revealing major plot spoilers. “The doodles depict Barbie’s make-believe journey from Barbie Land to the ‘real world.’ It was not intended to make any type of statement.” This means that the dashed lines, not only the one beside the Asia doodle but also across the fictional world map, are plotted for the purpose of marking the fictional character’s path.

#BarbieTheMovie starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling was initially set to hit Philippine cinemas on July 19.


As of writing, the MTRCB is yet to make a statement.

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