Warner Bros. Film Group in the U.S. issued a public apology after facing criticism from Warner Bros. Japan regarding the “Barbenheimer” meme, which sparked major offense in Japan.
In a statement emailed to Variety on Tuesday, Warner Bros. expressed regret for their “insensitive social media engagement” and offered a sincere apology.
The controversy arose when Warner Bros. Japan criticized the studio’s U.S. branch for promoting the “Barbenheimer” craze on social media. The U.S. “Barbie” Twitter account interacted positively with fan posts about “Barbenheimer,” a term referring to the simultaneous release of Universal’s “Oppenheimer” and Warner Bros.’ “Barbie” movies in July.
However, the “Oppenheimer” film, which debates the impact of the atomic bombings, has not been released in Japan, where the issue of nuclear weapons remains highly sensitive due to the devastating bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.
In response to a fan art poster featuring Margot Robbie’s Barbie and Cillian Murphy’s J. Robert Oppenheimer with a fiery atomic mushroom cloud, the U.S. “Barbie” Twitter account wrote, “It’s going to be a summer to remember,” causing further backlash.
Warner Bros. Japan published a statement on the “Barbie” Japan Twitter profile expressing their deep concern over the situation and requesting appropriate action from the U.S. headquarters. The studio apologized to those offended by the insensitive reactions.
The “Barbenheimer” craze has drawn criticism for trivializing the mass destruction caused by the atomic bombs, with the hashtag #NoBarbenheimer trending in Japan recently.
This incident highlights the ongoing sensitivity of the nuclear weapons debate in Japan, as the country remembers the hundreds of thousands of lives lost in the bombings. As of now, Warner Bros. Japan awaits the U.S. headquarters’ response and aims to address the issue with utmost seriousness.