Warner Bros. Film Group, one of the most prominent names in the American film industry, has found itself in a cultural controversy, prompting a public apology. The issue centers around a meme on social media known as ‘Barbenheimer’, which sparked significant backlash in Japan, according to Variety.
“The studio sincerely apologises for its recent insensitive social media engagement,” Warner Bros. stated in an email addressed to Variety on Tuesday. This apology comes in the wake of a public uproar in Japan, an online petition launched against the studio, and an unforeseen move by Warner Bros. Japan.
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The meme in question, ‘Barbenheimer’, is a portmanteau of Universal’s “Oppenheimer” and Warner Bros.’ “Barbie”, both of which were released on July 21 in North America and several overseas regions. These films quickly climbed the ranks to become box office sensations and contributed to the fourth highest-grossing weekend in history. However, ‘Oppenheimer’ is yet to be released in Japan and lacks a set release date.
A significant aspect of the ‘Barbenheimer’ controversy lies in its nuclear connotations, particularly sensitive in the context of Japan’s history. In 1945, two atomic bombs launched by the United States in Hiroshima and Nagasaki led to an estimated 250,000 casualties. This historical context underscores Japan’s heightened sensitivity to the nuclear weapons debate, highlighted by the current clash.
Warner Bros. Japan issued a public statement via its official Japanese-language “Barbie” Twitter account on Monday, criticising its U.S. division for participating in the ‘Barbenheimer’ social media frenzy. “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.
One tweet from the ‘Barbie’ U.S. Twitter account, which responded to a ‘Barbenheimer’ fan art poster showing Margot Robbie’s Barbie on Cillian Murphy’s J. Robert Oppenheimer’s shoulders against a backdrop of a fiery atomic mushroom cloud, caused particular distress. The account captioned it, “It’s going to be a summer to remember.” However, Twitter, now known as X, later updated the tweet with a community comment explaining the historical background of the mushroom cloud image.
This incident serves as a reminder of the profound influence of digital platforms in today’s interconnected world. It underscores the importance of cultural sensitivity in global communication, especially for global enterprises like Warner Bros. This news is based on a report from the Indian Express.