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HomeentertainmentMovie NewsBarbenheimer Memes Provoke Angry Backlash in Japan

Barbenheimer Memes Provoke Angry Backlash in Japan

#NoBarbenheimer has been trending on Japanese Twitter over the last couple of days amid an angry response to the official U.S. Barbie account on the platform commenting on memes seen as using the atomic bombings as jokes.

Posts featuring mashups of the Barbie and Oppenheimer films with explosions in the background and Barbie with her hair in the shape of an atomic bomb mushroom cloud were all reacted to positively by the @barbiethemovie account. One post featuring the two lead actors from the movies in front of apocalyptic flames drew the comment “It’s going to be a summer to remember.” Meanwhile, the mushroom cloud hairdo tweet had the U.S. account posting “This Ken is a stylist,” in an apparent reference to Barbie’s boyfriend, played by Ryan Gosling in the film.

Warner Bros. Japan on Monday issued a statement of apology, which has been viewed on Twitter nearly 30 million times, for the comments posted by the U.S. movie account, calling them “very regrettable” and saying that they “lack consideration.” It added: “We take this situation very seriously and are requesting the US headquarters to take appropriate measures.”

Later on Monday, Warner Bros. Film Group in the U.S. issued its own apology and said it would remove the offending tweets.

Many Japanese Twitter users expressed appreciation for the apology but remained angry at the original posts and the comments from the Barbie account in the U.S.

Twitter user @mankodaisuki58 replied to the apology with a picture of Barbie sitting on the shoulders of Osama Bin Laden in front of burning buildings in the same style as one of the original posts. It is captioned ‘visiting the places from movie scenes’ in Japanese and ‘It’s going to be a summer to remember’ in English.  

@akishmz tweeted: “Summer to remember that to the Barbie film team and to Hollywood more than 200,000 death by the end of 1945 (and half a million so far) by two atrocious bombs are something they feel comfortable joking about to promote their precious summer blockbuster.”

Barbie is set for release in Japan on Aug. 11, less than a week after the anniversaries of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on Aug. 6 and 9, respectively. That timing was immaterial until a movie based around a popular doll became inextricably linked with the story of the man instrumental in the creation of a weapon that killed around 200,000 civilians, and in the subsequent decades brought death and sickness to tens of thousands more.  

Oppenheimer has yet to be given a release date in Japan, but it will almost certainly be set for what is seen as a respectful interval after the memorial services for the atomic bombings, a period that may have just lengthened. However, contrary to some speculation even before the current controversy, it is unlikely in the extreme that the Cillian Murphy-starrer will be banned – not something modern Japanese governments are in the habit of doing.   

How much impact the ill-will generated by the posts has on Barbie’s and Oppenheimer’s performance in the world’s third-largest theatrical market will be clearer once both films are released.



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