'Barbenheimer' Marketing Craze Criticized By Warner Bros. Japan

Japanese Twitter users reacted to movie memes with reminders of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
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Warner Bros. has apologized after its Japanese subsidiary criticized its parent company for engaging with the “Barbenheimer” marketing craze.

While the quirky contrast between “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” was a recipe for box office magic when both films were released in the U.S. on July 21, people in Japan have called the mashup marketing push for the feminist comedy and atomic bomb origin story disrespectful, given the country’s history with nuclear weapons.

On Monday, Warner Bros. Japan responded to backlash against “Barbenheimer” in a statement on Twitter, where they accused their U.S. counterpart of making light of J. Robert Oppenheimer’s work on the atomic bombs, which would destroy the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II.

In its statement, Warner Bros. Japan called on its U.S. counterpart to “take appropriate action” on what they described as “highly regrettable” posts from official “Barbie” social media accounts.

Barbie and Oppenheimer were both released on July 21.
Barbie and Oppenheimer were both released on July 21.
Warner Bros./Universal Pictures

Several now-deleted replies to fan-created art appear to be at the center of Warner Bros. Japan’s complaint, which reminded readers that “Barbenheimer” is not an official Warner Bros. project. (“Oppenheimer,” meanwhile, belongs to Universal Pictures.)

According to The New York Times, the official “Barbie” movie account joked about a fan-made image of Barbie with her hair coifed into the shape of an mushroom cloud in one since-removed Twitter reply. “This Ken is a stylist,” the account wrote back.

In another now-deleted reply, the account responded to a fan’s edit of Barbie and Oppenheimer in front of flames saying, “It’s going to be a summer to remember.”

Flocks of Japanese Twitter users responded with the hashtag #BarbieNoKen, which is a play on words that translates to “The Barbie Incident,” according to the Times. Others shared photos of victims’ bodies and flattened cities, while some vowed to boycott “Barbie” when it comes out on Aug. 11 in Japan.

Warner Bros. apologized for the posts in a statement on Tuesday, telling the Times it “regrets its recent insensitive social media engagement” and offered “a sincere apology.”

When asked about Japanese moviegoers’ reaction to “Barbenheimer,” Universal told the Times it was not aware of any controversy.

While “Barbie” will be in Japanese theaters soon, “Oppenheimer” has yet to set a release date for the region.

Though there has been some speculation the film will not screen in the country because of its sensitive subject matter, it is not uncommon for films to premiere in Japan long after their domestic debuts.

Next week, Japan will mark 78 years since the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It’s estimated the attacks killed as many as 240,000 people upon impact and in the months after.

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