A cross-cultural viral trend has united imagery from the biopic “Oppenheimer” and the satirical comedy “Barbie,” yielding the hybrid hashtag #Barbenheimer. Barbenheimer trend was initially seen in January this year, and has transformed into a wave of Barbenheimer memes and memorabilia, drawing attention to both films as their release dates approached.

The Barbenheimer trend impact was notable in the United States, where it engaged audiences and influenced viewers to explore both movies. However, the Barbenheimer trend faced complexities in Japan, where the juxtaposition of “Barbenheimer” imagery with atomic bomb symbols sparked sensitivity concerns due to the country’s history with nuclear weapons.

The incident illustrates the intricate interplay between societal, cultural nuances, historical memory, and the convergence of pop culture and sensitive imagery.

Therefore, Real Research, an online survey app, launched a survey on ‘Barbenheimer’ trend sparking backlash in Japan to gauge public opinion about ‘Barbie vs Oppenheimer’ memes.


  • A noteworthy 34.31% perceive mild offensiveness in the Barbenheimer poster
  • 50.18% said the bombings aftermath in Oppenheimer should have been shown.
  • 25.66% said Barbie or Oppenheimer movies should not be banned due to the concerns.

Unpacking Controversy: The Barbenheimer Trend’s Impact in Japan

The online landscape recently witnessed a surge in internet memes and mashups blending Barbie’s iconic pink realm with nuclear mushroom clouds, gaining attention even from the official Twitter account of the Barbie movie itself. Among respondents, 59.41% were aware, while 40.59% remained unaware.

However, the fervor wasn’t without its complexities. A poster showcasing Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling driving away from a nuclear explosion stirred considerable backlash. How do these images resonate with the respondents? For 34.31%, there’s a sense of mild offensiveness, while 31.23% find them outright very offensive. On the flip side, 13.49% deem them not offensive, and 5.91% find them not offensive at all. A remaining 15.06% remain undecided.

Figure 1: Most respondents found the posters offensive.

The memes highlighting the concurrent releases of Barbie and Oppenheimer films had been circulating for some time, but the Japanese fanbase found themselves enraged when the official Warner Bros studio account joined in. According to the next survey poll, a notable 54.91% perceive them as offensive, while 45.09% dismiss any offense.

Warner Bros Japan’s Critique Ignites Debate

Amid this uproar, Warner Bros Japan publicly rebuked their US counterparts for what they saw as “inconsiderate” reactions to artwork that melded Barbie imagery with nuclear cloud symbolism. When we asked the respondents about their stance, the majority (56.56%) echoed their agreement, while 43.44% found themselves at odds.

Figure 2: Respondents’ stance on Warner Bros Japan’s reaction.

Reflecting on the potential impact, how would the presence of memes and posters centered around the bombings deter the respondents watching Barbie and Oppenheimer? For 40.98%, it would have indeed been a deterrent for Oppenheimer, with 18.96% swayed concerning Barbie, 17.77% for both, and 22.29% claiming no impact.

Stepping aside from the imagery controversy, Oppenheimer faced criticism for not fully depicting the extent of the destruction wrought on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, with potential casualties of up to 220,000. Christopher Nolan, the movie’s director, defended this omission by citing fidelity to Oppenheimer’s story. However, a clear division emerged among the respondents: 50.18% felt the bombings should have been depicted, while 49.82% aligned with Nolan’s narrative intent.

Figure 3: Respondents’ agreement on Nolan’s views.

Considering these concerns, the question arises: Should Barbie or Oppenheimer face bans or boycotts? Responses varied: 25.66% leaned towards a possible not, 21.92% were definitively against it, 20.6% leaned toward a possible stance, 16.74% firmly advocated for a boycott, and 15.08% remained undecided.


Survey TitleSurvey on ‘Barbenheimer’ Trend Sparking Backlash in Japan
DurationAugust 11, 2023 – August 18, 2023
Number of Participants10,000
DemographicsMales and females, aged 21 to 99
Participating Countries Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Benin, Bolivia, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, China, China (Hong Kong) China (Macao), China (Taiwan), Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Greanada, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Ivory Coast, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lebanon, Libya, Lithuania, Malaysia, Maldives, Maluritania, Mexico, Moldova, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar [Burma], Namibia, Nepal, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Palestine, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Vietnam, Yemen, Zimbabwe.