The words #NoBarbenheimer began trending on Japanese Twitter as users started voicing their opinions against the string of memes involving atomic bombings and mushroom clouds being posted by fans of the recently premiered Barbie and Oppenheimer. Many users are expressing their will to boycott the Barbie movie due to the film’s official Twitter account actively validating and encouraging such memes.
The two US blockbuster films Barbie and Oppenheimer have yet to premier in Japan, with Barbie being set for release in Japanese theaters starting August 11, and Oppenheimer remaining unannounced as of yet. The question of Oppenheimer’s reception in Japan had already been gaining attention as the movie depicts the atomic bomb project as an epic tale and refrains from depicting any of the devastation it brought to Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the time of the bombing. To complicate things further, the film’s premier was awfully close to the anniversaries of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings on August 6 and 9 respectively, making the timing far from ideal for Japanese audiences.
On the other hand, the Barbie movie had been enjoying a fairly positive pre-release hype in Japan, with many looking forward to the fantasy comedy. This was until “Barbenheimer” came to the attention of the Japanese public. Barbenheimer is an internet phenomenon that came to be due to the two major films, Barbie and Oppenheimer, premiering simultaneously in the US and several other countries. The public found humor in the two films being practically opposite in terms mood and content, which led to a series of internet memes and even merchandise being made based on the unlikely crossover.
But what started as finding humor in mashing up the names of two starkly different movies and contrasting their aesthetics turned more and more into straight-up atomic bomb-related jokes, such as the below video which shows Ken and Barbie “being nuked,” with Barbie’s skin and flesh burning off, exposing her skeleton. This all would have otherwise been received as simply individuals being distasteful and taking things too far, but the official Barbie Movie account replying positively and encouraging such content, as in the tweet linked above, elevated the issue into the franchise essentially using nuclear bomb memes as fodder to promote the movie.
Taking these circumstances into account, it doesn’t come as a surprise that many Japanese people want nothing to do with either of the films anymore. Many also pointed out the hypocrisy of the public that reacts gravely to any remarks made at the expense of tragic events in the history of the US or Europe but turns a blind eye when an Asian country is involved.
As controversy regarding the topic expanded, the Barbie movie official Japanese account came out with a statement to the public.
In the statement, the Japanese account clarifies that the #Barbenheimer movement is not official, and condemns the actions of the US account, stating that they will demand that the US account take action regarding the inconsiderate responses made by the account to fan submitted posts. They end the post by reassuring the public that the matter is being taken seriously and offer an apology.
Reactions to the statement have been mostly positive, with users being thankful for the swift response and explicit disapproval of the actions of the official US account.
UPDATE (8/01 16:33 PM JST):
In a statement for Deadline, Warner Bros US responded to the criticism received from Warner Bros Japan and social media users with the following message: “Warner Brothers regrets its recent insensitive social media engagement. The studio offers a sincere apology.” According to Deadline, the tweets in question are likely being deleted.