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From disinformation to yougonostalgia · Global Voices

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Barbie dolls have long been part of pop culture in the Balkans

Actual screenshot of the Barbie movie trailer and a Balkan version made to look like an English online news screenshot to make it more believable. Fair use.

Even before its opening in mid-July, the new Barbie movie caused a sensation in the Balkans with locals in the region browsing the information generated by the marketing campaign.

A tweet illustrating Barbie’s popularity compared to its current box office competitor Oppenheimer in the Balkans by a Kosovar group Kos_data that produces data visualizations has gone viral, with over 4.5 million views so far.

As explain by the Turkish version of the British Independent newspaper, Kos_data used Google Trends search results for each country in the region.

Barbie Mania also included an example of the disinformation trend of repurposing information from abroad as inspiration to produce misleading content aimed at inciting inter-ethnic hatred in an era of political tensions between Serbia and Kosovo.

Fake news about Barbie movie ban in Serbia

After Vietnam banned the Barbie movie due to a controversial map that had geopolitical implications for some, photoshopped Balkan variants of the scene began to appear, alleging that the film was also banned in Serbia.

Fact-checking service Truthmeter.mk demystified viral misinformation that used a meme based on a screenshot from the movie trailer who claimed that a map of the Balkans in the film promoted nationalist concept of Greater Albania. This concept involves Albanian conquest and ethnic cleansing of parts of Greece, North Macedonia, Kosovo, Serbia and Montenegro.

Screenshot of Facebook post Falsely appeasing Serbia censored the Barbie movie and demanded the same from North Macedonia. (Translation in the text of the article.)

While the meme itself may have been produced as a joke, many people in the region reacted in a very serious way, using it as a vehicle and excuse for hate speech. For example, all but one of the 36 shares and 27 comments from a Facebook post Classified as false by Truthmeter.mk, they contain curses and insults against Albanians, the “satanic” West or the United States and its allies. In this case, the government of North Macedonia is presented as a weak one accepting Western dictates, which is referred to with an insult that can be translated as “Northistan” – an attempt to show disagreement with the government. name change in 2019.

FILMOT ZA BARBI ZABRANET VO SRBIJA PORADI MAPA NA GOLEMA ALBANIJA … VO SEVEDZGAN NE E ZABRANET IAKO NA MAPATA SEVERDZGAN NE POSTOI IE PODELEN MEGJU BUGARIJA I GOLEMA ALBANIJA.

OVA DA SI ZNAETE KAKO VI STOJAT RABOTITE VO DRZAVCEVO I SHTO VI SPREMAAT!

The Barbie movie was banned in Serbia because of the Greater Albania map. It has not been banned in Northistan, although Northistan is not on the map at all and is divided between Bulgaria and Greater Albania. This is just to let you know the state of things in our small state and what they (Western and Macedonian government) have in store for you.

Some right-wing propagandists who apparently knew it was false also shared the meme with a comment that they cannot verify if it is true, knowing that the image will inflame their audience anyway. One of these media figures later deleted such a clickbait tweet.

The false information according to which the film Barbie would be banned in Serbia was also making the rounds on social networks in Albania, where it had been broadcast demystified by fact-checking service Faktoje.

Comments from some members of the Albanian community on Facebook and Twitter indicated that some of its members also shared the meme, but for different reasons: as a way to promote nationalist sentiments or to prove their negative opinion of Serbia as a as a repressive country that uses censorship.

In fact, the Barbie movie was never censored in Serbia. Moreover, on July 25, its distributor Blitz Film declared the highest grossing film in Serbian cinemas since the COVID-19 pandemic. During the first weekend its screening attracted 60,315 spectators, earning more than $306,000, which is a lot for a country of 6 million people.

Remembering local variations of Barbie

On a lighter note, the Yugoslavia Museum from Belgrade joined the Barbie Mania discussion by talking about a local version of the doll that was popular in the late 1980s.

The term “Barbie doll” in its local variant “barbika” was widespread in the old federation and was used not only for the original imported type, but also for all counterfeits or variants of dolls dressed in plastic. In the 1970s and 1980s, owning an original Barbie was considered a very important part of little girls’ childhoods, even serving as a sort of status symbol for the family.

While the whole world is enthusiastic about the new Barbie film, we are retaining from our collection this “Barbie doll” modeled on Lepa Brena. This product with the face of the famous singer was made in parallel with the album “Boli me uvo za sve” (I don’t care) which was the soundtrack of the film “Hajde da se volimo 3 – Udaje se Lepa Brena” ( Come on love each other 3 – Lepa Brena is getting married).

THE film series “Hajde da se volimo” (Aimons nous) was composed of three musical comedies published between 1987 and 1990. They presented the fictional adventures of the regional folk star Lépa Brenain a way reminiscent of the comedies of Elvis Presley. These extremely popular movies included burlesque humor in the style of Louis de Funes by some of the most popular Yugoslav actors of the time, like Dragomir “Gidra” Bojanić And Bata Živojinović.

The Lepa Brena doll wears an outfit from video spot from the song “Hajde da se volimo” (Let us love each other) in which she and her group parade through Dubrovnik in almost Scottish costumes. It is also linked to the promotion of tourism on the Adriatic coast. In recent years, these dolls have been sought after as collectibles, with prices reaching up to 123 dollars on online auction sites.

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