Barbenheimer backlash as Warner Bros regrets ‘insensitive’ social media posts


While Barbenheimer has taken much of the world by storm, the contrast between the two films is causing a stir in Japan where it has been dubbed insensitive.

Greta Gerwig’s Barbie film and Christopher Nolan’s biopic on J Robert Oppenheimer, the creator of the atomic bombs which were dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, have taken box offices by storm after they were both released in the US on 21 July.

But after edited images circulated online featuring Barbie star Margot Robbie and Oppenheimer actor Cillian Murphy in front of a backdrop of flames, Warner Bros US has apologised for its engagement with the memes.

The official Barbie Movie Twitter account had replied to some of the posts – including a now deleted tweet which said “it’s going to be a summer to remember”.

Responding to another Barbenheimer meme showing Robbie’s hair replaced with an apparent mushroom cloud, the account commented: “This Ken is a stylist”, referring to Barbie’s boyfriend.

The Japanese subsidiary of Warner Bros criticised the official US Barbie film Twitter account – and called its response to the Barbenheimer memes “highly regrettable”.

Warner Bros Japan’s own Barbie account issued a statement, saying they take this “very seriously” and asked the US head office to take action.

Warner Bros US said it “regrets its recent insensitive social media engagement”.

“The studio offers a sincere apology,” it added in a statement seen by US entertainment site Deadline.

Warner Bros US said the posts would be deleted.

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In Japan, the hashtag #NoBarbenheimer has been trending on social media, with users criticising the images and claiming it trivialises nuclear weapons and the impact the atomic bomb attacks had on the country.

One critical post said many victims of the atomic bombs were children the same age of those playing with Barbie dolls and that the memes were inconsiderate.

The bombs dropped on Hiroshima on 6 August 1945 and Nagasaki three days later on 9 August killed more than 200,000 people.

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Nicknamed “Little Boy”, the bomb dropped on Hiroshima obliterated the city with an estimated population of 350,000, where thousands more died later from injuries and radiation-related illnesses.

More than 75,000 people were instantly killed in the Nagasaki bombing and six days later, Japan surrendered, ending the Second World War.

Warner Bros Japan said the Barbenheimer blitz is not part of an official company campaign.

Barbie is due to reach cinemas in Japan on 11 August.

While Japan has not banned Oppenheimer from its theatres, there is not a release date for the film in the country.

A Universal spokesperson told Variety in June that “plans have not been finalised in all markets.”


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