Vietnam Bans Barbie Movie, Because ‘Map’

If there’s one thing we learned from “The West Wing,” it’s that Democrats need to find Republicans of goodwill who are willing to put America above partisan bickering, and … wait, that’s bullshit. But the episode where the “Organization of Cartographers for Social Equality” explained that maps can be very political, that one holds up pretty good. The Mercator projection really has encouraged “an imperialist European attitude for centuries and has created ethnic prejudices against the Third World,” and anyone who says otherwise is itchin’ for a fight.

Naturally enough, that brings us to the new Barbie movie directed by Greta Gerwig and starring Margot Robbie as the eponymous fashion doll. The trailer is ridiculously fun, but includes a detail that seems to have led the nation of Vietnam to ban distribution of the film. Namely, a cartoony world map includes a little bitty dashed line off the coast of “Asia,” and Vietnam says that means the movie endorses China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea. Here’s the trailer; the blink-and-you’ll miss it offense to Vietnam’s sovereignty appears at roughly the 1-minute mark, when Laurie Anderson Barbie Kate McKinnon Barbie advises Main Character Barbie she must go to the Real World and learn how human feet operate, we think.

The movie had been scheduled to open in Vietnam July 21, but Vietnam’s state media announced that the government banned the film Monday, as the AP explains:

The reports cited Vi Kien Thanh, director general of the Vietnam Cinema Department, as saying the National Film Evaluation Council made the decision. It said a map in the film shows China’s “nine-dash line,” which extends Beijing’s territorial claims far into waters that fall within areas claimed by Vietnam and other countries.

The “nine-dash line” is an arcane but sensitive issue for China and its neighbors that shows Beijing’s maritime border extending into areas claimed by other governments and encompasses most of the South China Sea. That has brought it into tense standoffs with the ASEAN nations of Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines, with Chinese fishing boats and military vessels becoming more aggressive in the disputed waters.

Here’s a map, drawn by professors Mark Raymond of the University of Oklahoma and David A. Welch of the University of Waterloo, in Canada-land, for their paper “What’s Really Going On in the South China Sea?” You can see why Vietnamese officials mockingly call the area claimed by China the “cow-tongue line.”

Map by Mark Raymond and David A. Welch

We should also point out that the map in the trailer only has eight dashes, so perhaps it depicts some other planet altogether.

State newspaper Vietnam Plus said that the inclusion of the squiggle in a cartoon map “distorts the truth, violates the law in general and violates sovereignty of Vietnamese territory in particular,” although it remains unclear how exactly the Barbie movie could in practical terms make the international boundary dispute any worse. The UN seems unlikely to determine that China can fish in the area because International Incident Barbie said so in a one-second clip.

Still, national pride and all that; no doubt patriotic Americans would be very put out if a Saudi-owned “news” network depicted part of the United States as belonging to a foreign country.

Screenshot of a 2020 Fox News map with Michigan's Upper Peninsula labeled

The AP reports that Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning, when asked about the matter Tuesday, did not consider life in plastic so fantastic, adding that

“China’s position on the South China Sea issue is clear and consistent.”

“We believe that the countries concerned should not link the South China Sea issue with normal cultural and people-to-people exchanges”

For what it’s worth — very little, since China ignored the decision altogether — a 2016 international tribunal in the Hague found China’s territorial claims to the waters had no merit, but as we just said in what’s now a redundant part of this sentence, China rejected the judgment and continues to claim the area.

So far, nobody involved with the movie has commented on how the controversial squiggle came to be included, although China is notorious for having its own angry reactions to western entertainment or sportsball players who express support for Hong Kong or Taiwan. Our own very deep foreign policy analysis concludes that somebody on the production staff said “well, better include the squiggle if we want to show this in China,” figuring that revenues from China would more than make up for any losses in Vietnam.

There’s nothing terribly new about this, either: Vietnam previously banned the 2022 film Uncharted and 2019’s Abominable for maps showing the Chinese Domination Squiggle. In fact, the scene in the latter completely forgettable kid flick led politicians in the Philippines to call for a boycott of all DreamWorks films, and Malaysia refused to distribute the movie until the scene was cut altogether.

As it happens, Vietnam also launched an investigation this week into the K-Pop group “Blackpink” because a website for its Vietnamese tour included a similarly offensive map. The tour organizer called the incident an “unfortunate misunderstanding” and pledged that the website had been updated, although the site remains down, Reuters reports.

Also, in the latest wrinkle of this developing international crisis, the Philippines is debating whether to ban Barbie as well.

How silly all these foreigns are, launching boycotts and censoring an innocent entertainment over such a nothingburger!

Meanwhile, in the Freest, Greatest, Most Liberty-est Nation on Earth, we’re firing teachers and banning books over the fear that encouraging everyone to get along and accept each other’s differences will lead to nine-year-olds falling into a life of depravity, or because schools might accurately depict our very real history.

Also, Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee) has now twice condemned the Barbie movie, tweeting yesterday that

Leftist Hollywood’s new ‘Barbie’ movie shows a map that supports Communist China’s territorial claims to the South China Sea.

Looks like ‘Barbie’ is bending to Beijing to make a quick buck.

Blackburn followed that up today by insisting that we all take her seriously, since a fun summer movie about a pop culture icon is actually causing human rights abuses, no really she is serious, if that squiggle were removed, the camps would be opened and the Uyghurs would be freed.

Hollywood & the Left are more concerned with selling films in Communist China than standing up to the regime’s human rights abuses.

The ‘Barbie’ movie’s depiction of a map endorsing Beijing’s claims to the South China Sea is legally & morally wrong and must be taken seriously.

Strangely, not a single Republican has stepped forward to demand that Mattel include realistic genitals on Ken and Barbie, since surely the dolls as they’ve existed for 70 years encourage androgyny.

[AP / NYT / CNBC / Reuters / Sage Journals]

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Tennessee Republicans Have Mass Shootings All Figured Out: More Guns, Everywhere, Always

Following the latest mass shooting by a responsible gun owner — the killer had no criminal record and purchased at least two of the guns legally in Nashville — Tennessee Republicans are offering the expected prayers and thoughts, although none of the thoughts include reducing the nation’s ample supply of firearms.

As Yr Wonkette noted earlier, brand new member of Congress Rep. Andy Ogles, who only won his seat thanks to Republican gerrymandering, is getting dragged a-plenty for his Christmas card demonstrating his family’s devotion to the Prince of Pieces. We’ll just add that the caption on that December 2021 image was all about the divine power of guns, and we are not making this up: “The very atmosphere of firearms anywhere and everywhere restrains evil interference — they deserve a place of honor with all that’s good.”

We aren’t sure it quite matches the meter of Mel Tormé’s “The Christmas Song,” but that’s certainly a Christmas wish! And it was so: The atmosphere of firearms anywhere and everywhere is with America not only during the Sacred Baby Season but also all year long.

While Ogles hasn’t been in Congress long enough to vote on any gun bills, in his previous job as mayor of Maury County, Tennessee, he signed a March 2020 resolution declaring the county a “sanctuary community” for the Holy Second Amendment. That doesn’t mean a damn thing at all in practical terms, but it’s a symbolic statement that if Tennessee ever passes a “red flag” law (it hasn’t), maybe the county would just let people making violent threats keep their guns. Stalkers need to defend themselves, too! And now, if Joe Biden tries to take all the guns, the guns can take refuge in Maury County, where people will presumably hide them just like Anne Frank’s family.

Ogles yesterday tweeted a brief statement saying, “My family and I are devastated by the tragedy” at the private Christian school in his district, with the usual thoughts and prayers and an assurance that he was “heartbroken by this senseless act of violence.” The replies were mostly pictures of the Christmas card, with a variety of commentary: “This you?” “We see you,” and the evergreen standby, “Fuck you.”

As it happens, then-mayor Ogles signed his 2021 gun sanctuary resolution just a day after Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announced his own plan to allow all Tennesseans to carry handguns — openly or concealed — without a permit, meaning they’d no longer need to take a tyrannical safety class or pass any tyrannical criminal background check (other than the tyrannical federal one required to buy a gun). That law passed easily, and Lee signed it into law later in 2021, and now Republicans in the Tennessee Legislature are considering broadening it to allow open carry of all “firearms,” including assault rifles, instead of just handguns. Very important for the atmosphere of firearms to include people walking around on the sidewalk with AR-15s at the ready.

Lee tweeted an inspiring suggestion that Tennesseans join him in prayer, for all that’s worth.

Lee has been very busy protecting Tennessee children this session — not so much from being shot at school but from seeing drag shows and also criminalizing gender affirming healthcare for trans kids so they can be forced to go through puberty as the gender they don’t identify with, which will make them stop being trans anymore (except for how that doesn’t work). Research keeps showing that when trans and nonbinary youth receive gender-affirming medical care, the appallingly high suicide rate among trans kids can be reduced by as much as 73 percent. But as long as they ignore all the warnings, forcing unwanted puberty on trans youth probably won’t have any risks that Republicans would worry about.

As ever: If you are having thoughts of suicide or self harm, call the national Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn, who’s benefited from more than $1.3 million in total spending by the National Rifle Association over her House and Senate career, did a routine “heartbroken” tweet, thanking first responders, but without “thoughts and prayers,” possibly for the sake of avoiding cliché.

Parkland school shooting survivor David Hogg offered a thoughtful revised version for Blackburn, a sort of “War Prayer” explication of the unspoken half part of her tweet:

Let me re write that for you.

Chuck & I are heartbroken to hear about the shooting at Covenant School in Nashville that was enabled by NRA puppets like me who are willing to let kids be fucking slaughtered so long as the NRA continues giving me millions.

Singer Roseanne Cash offered her own thoughts for Blackburn. Her tweet lacked any prayers:

Don’t even. You vote against every common sense gun control bill that comes across your desk, you’ve taken over $1 million from the NRA and you rank 14th in all Congress for NRA contributions. Spare us the hand-wringing @MarshaBlackburn

Possibly the most honest reaction to the shootings came from Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tennessee), who told reporters at the US Capitol what he and fellow Republicans would do to solve gun violence: Not a damn thing, because criminals will always find a way to get guns, like walking into a firearms dealer and buying one.

“It’s a horrible, horrible situation,” Burchett said. “And we’re not gonna fix it. Criminals are gonna be criminals and my daddy fought in the second world war, fought in the Pacific, fought the Japanese.” From that, the elder Burchett’s taught his son that “if somebody wants to take you out and doesn’t mind losing their life, there’s not a heck of a lot you can do about it.”

We aren’t sure whether Burchett is depressed or just lazy, since he didn’t even invoke the mythical “good guy with a gun.” He’s certainly not going to try to stop the massacres anyway, because government and laws are useless. Quite the argument to keep him in the lawmaking business, no?

No, there’s nothing Congress can do either, don’t be silly, because criminals are unstoppable lawbreakers: “I don’t see any real role that we could do other than mess things up.” He did point out that there’s one way to end mass shootings, though:

You gotta change people’s hearts. You know, as a Christian, as we talk about in the church, and I’ve said this many times, I think we really need a Revival in this nation.

That said, Rep. Burchett has an “A+” rating from a leading anti-abortion group, because you can definitely legislate away women’s reproductive freedom without waiting around for the filthy sinning strumpets to find Jesus and mend their ways.

Oh, and as for the safety of his own children, Burchett explained that’s not a problem, since his daughter is homeschooled and will never have to worry about her safety. Rest of you people are on your own, the end.

[Daily Herald / Tennessean / NBC News / Brennan Murphy on Twitter]

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Checks & Imbalances: Feds Investigate ByteDance, AOC Is Hiring

Today we look at an investigation into ByteDance, a job opening with the Ocasio-Cortez campaign and tech leaders’ efforts to get a bailout for Silicon Valley Bank.

The FBI And DOJ Are Investigating ByteDance’s Use Of TikTok To Spy On Journalists

“The FBI and the Department of Justice are investigating the events that led TikTok’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance, to use the app to surveil American journalists, including this reporter, according to sources familiar with the departments’ actions,” reports Emily Baker-White:

According to a source in position to know, the DOJ Criminal Division, Fraud Section, working alongside the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, has subpoenaed information from ByteDance regarding efforts by its employees to access U.S. journalists’ location information or other private user data using the TikTok app. According to two sources, the FBI has been conducting interviews related to the surveillance. ByteDance’s use of the app to surveil U.S. citizens was first reported by Forbes in October, and confirmed by an internal company investigation in December.

“We have strongly condemned the actions of the individuals found to have been involved, and they are no longer employed at ByteDance. Our internal investigation is still ongoing, and we will cooperate with any official investigations when brought to us,” said ByteDance spokesperson Jennifer Banks. TikTok did not respond to a request for comment.

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Sens. Blackburn and Blumenthal Join Forbes To Discuss Bill To Keep Kids Safe Online

Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) join Brittany Lewis in “Forbes Newsroom” to discuss their bipartisan legislation, the Kids Online Safety Act.

50 Tech Leaders Circulated A Private Memo In Washington Calling For Action On SVB

“As SVB careened towards catastrophe, some 50 founders, VCs, economists and comms experts gathered in a WhatsApp group to draft a memo calling for urgent preservation of its deposits for the sake of the broader economy. Then they sent it to Washington,” reports Alex Konrad.

Just after 5:30 pm Pacific on Saturday, a memo started making the rounds among policymaker staff. Called “United States Cascade Bank Failure Scenario,” the private document laid out the case for why the U.S. government needed to take “decisive action” to avoid a continued bank run in the wake of the abrupt closure of Silicon Valley Bank.

“Today, most Americans assume the SVB failure is contained to the tech economy, but this is not true,” the document said, before laying out a primer on how SVB collapsed and the dire consequences for inaction — insolvency for regional banks, massive job cuts and the loss of banking services for wide swaths of the country, far from Silicon Valley. “The risks to the U.S. economy could be sudden, severe, and extensive,” it warned.

Whereas some prominent voices in tech took to Twitter for all-caps concern tweets, the memo was unsigned, but it was authored by a coterie of almost 50 leaders within and beyond the tech ecosystem. From Thursday through the weekend, they crowd-sourced information and coordinated ad hoc outreach to staffers in the California governor’s office, the White House, and to lawmakers like Ro Khanna, Katie Porter, Elizabeth Warren and JD Vance.

‘We Are Up Against A Fiscal Cliff’: Rep. Josh Brecheen Talks Budget And Economic Plans With Forbes

Rep. Josh Brecheen (R-Okla.) joins “Forbes Newsroom” to discuss his first term in Congress, the budget and debt ceiling negotiations and his top policy areas.

AOC Searching For New Campaign Manager After Previous One Blamed For Met Gala Fiasco

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is looking for a new campaign manager after her previous one was blamed for dropping the ball on payments related to her Met Gala appearance. That lapse led the House ethics office to find “substantial reason to believe” the congresswoman violated ethics laws by “accept[ing] impermissible gifts.”

In September 2021, the New York Democrat attended the Met Gala, famously wearing a white dress with “Tax the Rich” scrawled across the backside. That appearance led the nonpartisan Office of Congressional Ethics to launch an investigation. Its inquiry discovered that Ocasio-Cortez did not pay for her dress, hair styling, makeup and other services until after the investigation was launched, five months after the gala.

Ocasio-Cortez told investigators she planned to personally pay for those services and had authorized her campaign manager to coordinate payments with the vendors, according to a transcript of her interview. “I continued to follow up on this thing because it was stressing me out, and I genuinely do not know what had happened,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “I had continued to get this kind of holding pattern response [from her campaign manager].”

“I just never, ever, ever would have allowed that to happen knowing what I have learned, but that I wasn’t privy to the invoices,” the congresswoman said.

The campaign manager, who was still employed by Ocasio-Cortez at the time of her interview in May 2022, provided investigators with a similar account. The campaign manager said she didn’t pay for the dress as she didn’t think the invoice was final. She didn’t pay for the hairstylist until after it threatened to file a complaint with New York City’s Office of Labor Policy and Standards for Workers because the bill “fell off my radar,” and she didn’t have access to the congresswoman’s personal credit card. Overall, the campaign manager said, “other things kind of took precedence.”

The campaign manager’s name is not included in the transcripts, but other exhibits included in the investigation’s report identify her as Rebecca Rodriguez.

“The staffer is no longer with the campaign,” said Communications Director Lauren Hitt in a statement, declining to explain if the ethics investigation led to the split. Forbes was unable to reach Rodriguez for comment.

Ocasio-Cortez began looking for a new campaign manager on or before Feb. 7, according to the first date Google indexed the posting. Responsibilities for the position, which pays $120,000 to $165,000 a year, include “partnering with the candidate to design and oversee the campaign strategy, set and execute priorities, and manage a skilled team of staff, advisors, consultants, and volunteers in a community-focused, unconventional year-round campaign operation.”

Overseeing compliance is another responsibility. The ad does not mention that duty may include ensuring Ocasio-Cortez’s hairstylist receives prompt payments.

Tracking Trump

A musical collaboration between Donald Trump and a choir of individuals incarcerated for their alleged involvement in the Jan. 6 riot sold 22,500 digital downloads in the 11 days after its release, according to a music analytics firm.

“Justice for All” by Trump and the J6 Prison Choir debuted on March 3. The track interpolates the former president reciting the Pledge of Allegiance into “The Star-Spangled Banner,” sung by inmates housed at the Washington, D.C. jail. Trump is personally involved in the project.

By the following Friday, the track reached the top spot on the iTunes Store, which measures how many times a song was purchased. Through that day, the song had sold 4,800 digital downloads across iTunes and other retailers, according to the tracking service Luminate (formerly known as Nielsen). The track has remained on the top spot with digital downloads totaling 22,500 through Monday. “That strikes me as a substantial amount of downloads,” said an executive in the music-technology business not associated with the release, who asked not to be named given the contentious nature of the song.

The music executive noted that consumers have moved away from downloading songs, opting instead to stream them. “Justice for All” was streamed on-demand 600,000 times across audio and video between March 3 and March 13, according to Luminate. “That’s not a ton,” said the music executive. “You often see a song that really takes off get millions and millions of streams in the first few days. That’s less impressive than the downloads.” That play count was not enough for “Justice for All” to land on Apple Music or Spotify’s streaming charts.

The song also has not reached Billboard’s charts. But Erica Knight, a spokesperson for Kash Patel, a former Trump administration staffer who is involved with the recording, said she expects to see the song on multiple charts when they are released next week.

Sales of a $100 vinyl version are “significant,” Knight claimed, declining to provide actual sales figure.

“Justice for All” costs $1.29 on the iTunes Store. Profits are slated to benefit the families of people imprisoned for their alleged roles in the Capitol riot.

Watch: Your correspondent joined Brittany Lewis on “Forbes Newsroom” to discuss Trump and the prisoner’s track.


Gilson Machado Guimarães Neto, Brazil’s former Minister of Tourism under Jair Bolsonaro, met with Trump at Mar-a-Lago.


Rep. Mark Alford (R-Mo.) “had the opportunity of a lifetime” on Tuesday when an unnamed group ostensibly rented out Mar-a-Lago to raise money for Republicans running for Congress.

Across Forbes

In Closing

Private eyes

They’re watching you

They see your every move

— Daryl Hall & John Oates, “Private Eyes”

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