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Barbenheimer backlash: Japan upset at the co-marketing of 'Barbie' and 'Oppenheimer'

Japan rejects the co-marketing of Barbie and Oppenheimer as trivialising nuclear war
Japan rejects the co-marketing of Barbie and Oppenheimer as trivialising nuclear war Copyright Warner Bros. - Universal Pictures
Copyright Warner Bros. - Universal Pictures
By David Mouriquand
Published on Updated
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Warner Bros. Japan has publicly criticised their US counterparts over ‘inconsiderate’ reactions to art combining Barbie imagery with nuclear mushroom clouds...

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Warner Bros. Japan has criticised what it called “extremely regrettable” Barbenheimer tweets shared by their US counterparts.

The Barbenheimer craze, which has resulted in millions around the world watching the two blockbusters Barbie and Oppenheimer back-to-back in an ironic double bill dubbed “Barbenheimer”, has drawn criticism in Japan for making light of the mass destruction caused by the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The Barbie US Twitter account, which responded to one Barbenheimer fan art poster which depicts Margot Robbie’s Barbie sitting on the shoulders of Cillian Murphy’s J. Robert Oppenheimer in front of a fiery atomic mushroom cloud, by writing: “It’s going to be a summer to remember.”

Twitter
"A summer to remember"Twitter

Twitter, now called X, added a community note to the post explaining the historical context of the mushroom cloud image.

“At 8:15 a.m. on August 6, 1945 (Showa 20), an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima for the first time in human history,” the Twitter note reads. “The particular nature of the damage caused by the atomic bombs is that mass destruction and mass murder occurred instantaneously and indiscriminately.”

Warner Bros. Japan released a statement criticizing the studio’s US branch for feeding into the Barbenheimer craze on social media, leading to the hashtag #NoBarbenheimer trending in the country in recent days.

“We consider it extremely regrettable that the official account of the American headquarters for the movie ‘Barbie’ reacted to the social media postings of ‘Barbenheimer’ fans,” Warner Bros. Japan wrote in a statement published on the Barbie Japan Twitter profile. “We take this situation very seriously. We are asking the U.S. headquarters to take appropriate action. We apologize to those who were offended by this series of inconsiderate reactions.”

Warner Bros US responded to the criticism: “Warner Brothers regrets its recent insensitive social media engagement. The studio offers a sincere apology.”

Nolan’s film has been criticised by some for not showing the extent of the devastation wrought on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where it is estimated up to 220,000 people died in the bombings and their aftermath. Oppenheimer is now playing in theatres worldwide, but it has not been released in Japan and no release date has yet been determined. Its subject matter means it will be a sensitive one for Universal’s local distributor Toho, should the film get a release date.

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