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MTRCB finds no basis to ban ‘Barbie’, gives movie PG rating

The Movie and Television Review and Classification Board has found no basis to ban the movie "Barbie" over a supposed depiction of China's nine-dash-line map.

In a letter to Sen. Francis Tolentino, the MTRCB said the review committee had given the film a parental guidance rating- which means viewers below 13 must be accompanied by a parent or supervising adult.

"The MTRCB is firm, as per its mandate under Presidential Decree No. 1986, that when there is a clear portrayal in films/television of scenes injurious to the prestige of  the Republic of the Philippines such as the 'nine-dash line' we will not hesitate to ban said materials," the board said.

"Conversely, if the material does not pose such a threat then, in the spirit of fairness and objectivity, we will not impose a ban on such materials," it added.

"The Board believes that all things considered, it has no basis to ban the film 'Barbie' as there is no clear nor outright depiction of the 'nine-dash line' in the subiect film, in comparison to films such as 'Abominable' and 'Uncharted'," the board said.

The letter sent to Tolentino was signed by MTRCB chairman Lala Sotto-Antonio and the members of the review committee—Malou Choa-Fagar, Katrina Angela Ebarle, and Jennifer Seares.

Vietnam ban

Vietnam in early July banned "Barbie" from domestic distribution over a scene featuring China's nine-dash-line map, the basis for its massive yet invalidated claims in the South China Sea.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2016 upheld the Philippines' exclusive economic zone as provided by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea,  and invalidated China's historical claims. 

China has refused to recognize the ruling.

"Barbie" is the latest movie to be banned in Vietnam for depicting China's controversial nine-dash line.

Eight-dash line

The MTRCB said that the controversial scene in the movie showed that the dash lines attached to a landmass labeled “Asia” were not U-shaped and had eight dots/dashes instead of nine.

The board added  that the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia were not visible on the map.

The MTRCB said this was in stark contrast to the maps found in the films “Abominable" and "Uncharted" which the board banned in 2019 and 2022.

It likewise cited the Warner Bros. Film Group’s exclusive interview with Vanity wherein the film company explained that the “map in Barbie Land is a child-like crayon drawing."

"The doodles depict Barbie’s make-believe journey from Barbie Land to the ‘real world’ and that the lines were not intended to make any type of statement,” the MTRCB said.

Arbitral ruling

In an interview, Tolentino lamented the decision of the MTRCB, adding that it came on the eve of the seventh anniversary of the arbitral ruling which invalidated China’s nine-dash line claim in South China Sea.

He said the MTRCB should have followed the suggestion of the Department of Foreign Affairs to delete the controversial scene.

“Hindi po pinag-uusapan…kung ito man ay eight-dash line, seven-dash line, or nine-dash line," said Tolentino, the vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

(It does not matter whether its an eight-dash line, seven-dash line, or nine-dash line.)

"Ang nakikita po dito ay yung patuloy na pagkamkam ng China sa karagatan ng Pilipinas at ito po ay isang maliwanag na pagyurak sa karapatan na ating mangingisda, maging ang ating Hukbong Dagat ng Pilipinas, at ang ating Philippine Coast Guard,” he added.

(What we see here is the continued claims by China in the seas of the Philippines and this is a clear violation of the rights of our fishermen,  even our Philippine Navy, and our Philippine Coast Guard.)

“Ito po ang nakakalungkot sa naging desisyon na ito subalit ginagalang po natin ang MTRCB… Hindi ko kinakalaban ang Barbie. Ang gusto ko lang po d'on ay makitang maliwanag na pag-aari po natin ang karagatan na nakita sa nasabing pelikula,” Tolentino said.

(This is what's sad with this decision but we respect the MTRCB. I don't have any problem with Barbie. I just want to see there that it is clear that we waters shown in the Philippines belong to us.) —NB, GMA Integrated News