Whoever would have thought that Barbie would stir up such a frenzy? And it’s all to do with what’s called the “nine-dash line” rather than the lines of Barbie’s fulsome figure – all too feminine figure for some – or the massive strokes of mascara she wears.

Reaction subscribers will be ahead of the skirmish – those with a keen eye will have noticed an entry in the “Also Know” section in a recent daily briefing which stated that the new Barbie film has been censored in the Philippines. 

Bizarrely, this was because of a crude crayon drawing of a world map which included the infamous nine-dash line that China uses to assert its claim to vast amounts of territory in the South China Sea. Territory, it should be said, that is not its own.

 Why all the sensitivities? 

Well, the nine-dash line has been ruled illegal by The Hague and many countries in South East Asia dispute Chinese claims to territory in the South China Sea. China has ignored the ruling from The Hague and continues to use the nine-dash line in theory and in practice. China’s creation of military islands in disputed territory well outside its 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone has stoked much tension in the region for years now. 

There’s a no show of the new film in Vietnam. A Vietnamese state-run newspaper said: “We do not grant licence for the American movie ‘Barbie’ to release in Vietnam because it contains the offending image of the nine-dash line.”

The Philippines has taken a slightly softer stance: it will show the film but with the map blurred out. After a “meticulous” review, the Philippine government’s Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) has rather hilariously said the purported nine-dash line instead “portrayed the route of the make-believe journey of Barbie from Barbie Land to the ‘real world,’ as an integral part of the story.”

Yet even the controversial American senator Ted Cruz seems to agree with Vietnam that this vague map represents real danger. Cruz accused the film of promoting “Chinese propaganda”. His spokesperson said the Texan senator has been “fighting for years to prevent American companies, especially Hollywood studios, from altering and censoring their content to appease the Chinese Communist Party.”

Warner Brothers has tried to defend itself by saying the map is “child-like” and is not trying to make any sort of political statement. And, after seeing a still of the scene, one has to agree.

It is understandable that the Philippines and Vietnam are incredibly touchy about such a treacherous frontier with a history of serious clashes going back to 1974. But it is quite clear that Ted Cruz is merely joining Ron DeSantis in his melodramatic hatred of Hollywood. 

Unfortunately, the film already seems to be all anyone can talk about after the London premiere last night. This Hound’s flatmates were like a gaggle of geese booking their tickets and the Hound itself has now passed three cinemas advertising tickets for sale. And with this neologism “Kenergy” doing the rounds, I think we’ll soon have a better reason to hate Hollywood than any “whimsical doodle” of the nine-dash line.

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