The "Barbie" movie and "Oppenheimer" — about the scientist behind the atomic bomb — went head to head in theaters, but fans mashed them up, makinga global phenomenon. But in the only country attacked by atomic bombs, fan-made artwork of the beloved childhood icon paired with mushroom clouds didn't sit well with social media users.
"#NoBarbenheimer" trended in Japan, reflecting a backlash sparked by what Japanese media said was the film's official U.S. account's cheerful replies to several memes. Those replies were later deleted.
By some estimates, more than 200,000 people were killed as a direct result of the two atomic bombs dropped by the U.S. on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.
"Warner Brothers regrets its recent insensitive social media engagement," Warner Bros. Film Group said in a statement to CBS News. "The studio offers a sincere apology."
Screengrabs posted by Japanese newspaper Mainichi Shimbun show the actors Margot Robbie and Cillian Murphy, who played the titular characters in their respective movies, posing happily in front of a nuclear blast, with the account responding: "It's going to be a summer to remember" with a kissy face emoji.
Another user posted artwork of Robbie as Barbie with a mushroom cloud around her head.
"This Ken is a stylist," the movie's promotional account replied.
The viral images and replies prompted a rare rebuke from Warner Bros. Japan on social media. In its post, the Japanese distributor noted "Barbenheimer" is not an official campaign.
"We consider the reaction to the fan-based movement posted on the official 'Barbie' website run by the U.S. headquarters to be extremely regrettable," the statement from Warner Bros. Japan read. "We take this situation very seriously and have asked that the U.S. headquarters take appropriate action. We apologize to those offended by this series of inconsiderate actions."
The two films — Warner Bros.' "Barbie" and Universal's "Oppenheimer" — were simultaneously released on July 21 and movie-goers in the U.S. have been heading the theaters for a double screening, generating $93 million and $46.7 million this past weekend, according to Box Office Mojo.
The Greta Gerwig-directed "Barbie" is scheduled to be released in Japan on Aug. 11 — days after the anniversaries of the bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. No Japan release date has been announced for the Christopher Nolan-directed "Oppenheimer."
A Universal spokesperson told Variety in June that plans had "not been finalized in all markets."
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