The 'Barbenheimer' Memes Were Fun—Until They Weren't

Warner Bros. apologizes for atomic bomb-themed mashups for 'Barbie,' 'Oppenheimer' movies
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 1, 2023 8:53 AM CDT
The 'Barbenheimer' Memes Were Fun—Until They Weren't
A patron buys a movie ticket underneath a marquee featuring the films "Barbie" and "Oppenheimer" at the Los Feliz Theatre on Friday in Los Angeles.   (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello, File)

The "biggest movie weekend in years" last month was thanks to the phenomenon known as "Barbenheimer"—the opening of both Barbie and Oppenheimer, two completely different films that sparked a slew of memes referencing their unlikely odd bond. Some of those memes, however, have irked the netizens of Japan—especially memes featuring cheeky references to the atomic bomb, which was dropped two times on the country, in Hiroshima and Nakasaki, in August 1945. Making things worse is the fact that the US Twitter/X account for Greta Gerwig's Barbie movie reacted to some of those memes with cringeworthy replies, per the BBC.

One meme, for instance, shows Oppenheimer star Cillian Murphy carrying smiling Barbie star Margot Robbie through a nuclear fire—a post that earned a reply from the Barbie account that read, "It's going to be a summer to remember." Other memes included mushroom cloud-Barbie combos, including one showing Robbie with her hair in the shape of a mushroom cloud, to which the Barbie account replied, "This Ken is a stylist." The memes spurred an angry #NoBarbenheimer hashtag, and similarly angry responses. "My grandfather was in Hiroshima until a few days before the atomic bomb was dropped," one commented noted, per the BBC. "Among those who died under that mushroom cloud were many children who were at the age of playing with Barbie dolls."

The memes and jokes also prompted backlash from the Japanese arm of Warner Bros., the studio behind Barbie, which called the memes "extremely regrettable" and "inconsiderate," per Deadline. "We take this situation very seriously," Warner Bros. Japan wrote. "We are asking the US headquarters to take appropriate action." Warner Bros. in the US has since offered a mea culpa and taken down the offending tweets. "Warner Brothers regrets its recent insensitive social media engagement," the company says in a statement. "The studio offers a sincere apology." (The two movies continued to rule the box office this past weekend.)

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