It is the summer time of Barbiecore style, “Barbenheimer” double options, and a worldwide scarcity of a selected shade of fluorescent pink. Saying the “Barbie” film has been hotly anticipated is like saying July in New York is scorching — it does not do a modicum of justice to the actually immersive expertise that being a Barbie fan this summer time has been.
This, nonetheless, is the exact same Barbie that has been endlessly critiqued for being a logo of unrealistic, harmful magnificence requirements, and there is truly a big assortment of scholarship that has backed up the concept the doll hasn’t usually been nice for ladies’ physique picture. For instance, a 2006 research in Developmental Psychology discovered that ladies between ages 5 and eight who have been uncovered to Barbies had decrease ranges of satisfaction with their our bodies than those that weren’t. A decade later, an identical research within the journal Physique Picture got here to an identical conclusion, and that discovering was replicated in one more 2021 research from the identical journal. It is pretty exhausting to disclaim that the unique Barbie’s physique is not lifelike; in any case, 2014 Medical Day by day research discovered that the unique Barbie had a BMI of 16.24, which means that if she was actual and had the doll’s proportions, she’d need to stroll on all fours.
As this scholarship and renewed anti-Barbie sentiments reached the general public, Mattel confronted backlash, and Barbie’s gross sales started to nosedive. This led the corporate to launch a very spectacular rehabilitation marketing campaign. First, they fired then-CEO Bryan Stockton in 2015, and a yr later, Mattel started releasing Barbies with three totally different physique sorts: petite, tall, and curvy, prompting Time to launch a canopy story with the headline, “Now can we stop talking about my body?” In 2018, Mattel constructed on their new momentum and employed present CEO Ynon Kreiz, who got here in with a plan to launch Mattel toy-inspired motion pictures, theme parks, and rather more, per Selection. Flash-forward to the summer time of 2023, and it looks like Mattel’s Barbie rehabilitation marketing campaign and Kreiz’s imaginative and prescient have reached their zenith with the “Barbie” film, which premiered on July 21.
“Barbie” has at all times had rather a lot going for it; it is directed by Greta Gerwig, who has constructed a popularity for making advanced feminist masterpieces like “Lady Bird” and “Little Women,” and it boasts a various, star-studded solid of Barbies and Kens. “Barbie” can be deeply self-aware concerning the controversies which have surrounded its central doll since she was created. The Barbie on the heart of the story, known as “Stereotypical Barbie” and embodied with precision by Margot Robbie, believes that Barbie has made the true world a improbable place for ladies till she truly enters actuality. There, she’s met by a gaggle of center schoolers who label her a “fascist” and inform her she symbolizes the whole lot that has held girls again.
The movie solely grows extra self-aware from there, and at one level, when Robbie’s Barbie laments that she does not look good anymore, a voiceover tells the filmmakers that they should not have solid Robbie in the event that they needed to make this level. However does the film actually achieve ameliorating the hurt that “Stereotypical Barbie” and her model of femininity has and arguably nonetheless does trigger? In spite of everything, the film has sparked world Barbie fever, and though the precise movie does an unbelievable job of interrogating lots of the points with Barbie, many of the buzz surrounding the movie has been pretty uncritical. In some methods, that is solely truthful. In a summer time full of warmth waves and disappointingly little scholar debt aid, all of us should have a good time.
Then once more, Barbie interrupts a superb social gathering by speaking about dying, which does not appear too totally different from interrupting the summer time of “Barbie” celebration by overanalyzing what the film has to say about girls. In that spirit, irrespective of what number of self-aware voiceovers and aspect feedback Gerwig inserts, it is exhausting to get previous the truth that the film stars Robbie, a conventionally stunning white lady. Although the solid is various, solely Robbie has been wearing Barbie outfits on the press excursions, and casting Robbie’s Barbie because the lead does find her model of skinny, white hyper-femininity as central and default. (In the meantime, when Amy Schumer was solid as Barbie in a distinct model of the film in 2016, vicious, fat-shaming hate tweets ensued.) By worshiping Robbie’s model of Barbie, one may ask: would possibly we unintentionally be idealizing a sort of womanhood (learn: skinny, white, etcetera) that’s already extraordinarily idealized on the expense of everybody who cannot stay as much as that customary?
“Barbie” truly does grapple with this query pretty extensively, and although it does not ship any clear solutions, it comes closest to a decision when Barbie’s creator, Ruth Handler, reveals as much as ship a number of life classes close to the movie’s conclusion. She tells everybody that her Barbie was by no means meant to appear to be somebody attainable or lifelike for most individuals; that wasn’t the purpose. Barbie the doll is a fantasy, similar to Barbieland. She’s an thought, and, as Handler says, “Ideas live forever.”
Simply because the film is self-aware about “Stereotypical Barbie”‘s flaws does not imply we must always cease interrogating whether or not Barbie is dangerous to ladies’ self-image, although however, labeling any type of femininity as “bad” has its personal points. However by highlighting the truth that perfection is just an thought and that it may’t and should not have to carry up in the true world, “Barbie” positively makes an necessary level — one which hasn’t essentially translated to mainstream discourse concerning the film, which has principally revolved across the movie’s ultra-fun, pink, glittery aesthetic.
After all, celebrating enjoyable, pink, and glitter is a crucial and useful a part of “Barbie” as properly. Historically, female pursuits and aesthetics have traditionally been discounted and disavowed as inherently lesser-than, which Ken is thrilled to find when he enters the true world. (Brilliantly, “Barbie” makes the purpose that Ken’s need to stay in a patriarchal society principally comes from the truth that he is extraordinarily insecure, although the Ken query deserves a very totally different essay.)
This brings up one other aspect of the critiques which were leveled at Barbie since she was created — the concept she promotes a regressive, subservient sort of femininity. In 1972, the Nationwide Group For Ladies protested Barbie and different dolls in entrance of New York’s Toy Honest constructing, handing out pamphlets arguing that Barbie “perpetuated sexual stereotypes by encouraging little girls to see themselves solely as mannequins, sex objects, or housekeepers,” per The New York Instances. Many years later, protesters in Berlin lined up outdoors a brand new Barbie Dreamhouse set up in 2013 and protested Barbie for “marketing strategies that allocate a limited gender role to young girls,” per NBC.
It is true that Barbie has held each skilled place within the books, from 1965’s Astronaut Barbie to 1985’s Day-to-Night time, executive-coded Barbie. Nonetheless, “Stereotypical Barbie” — presumably the one these protests have been focusing on — has by no means been in a position to shake off the bimbo accusations, although “Barbie” itself makes the argument that “Barbie isn’t a bimbo” greater than as soon as. Mockingly, earlier than “Barbie” got here out, the film was already being labeled a seminal textual content of “Bimbo feminism” — a sort of feminism that celebrates femininity in and of itself and rejects girlboss feminism, which equates girls’s price with skilled success.
Someway, “Barbie” even manages to interrogate this concept, although once more, it does not supply many solutions. Robbie’s Barbie finds herself grappling along with her place in a world that hates stereotypical Barbies, which prompts America Ferrera’s character to suggest the creation of an “Ordinary Barbie.” Nonetheless, Barbie ends the film by abandoning her glamorous high-heeled previous and getting into the true world as a extra muted, gynecologist-attending, blazer-wearing model of who she was in Barbieland.
Finally, “Barbie”‘s most necessary level comes throughout Ferrera’s monologue, which makes the essential argument that Barbie, similar to any given lady, is rarely going to have the ability to please everybody. Working example: whereas Barbie’s physique has lengthy been criticized for catering to a male fantasy, males have been truly apparently her authentic critics. In line with Time, male opponents laughed Handler out of the room when she first unveiled her doll within the Nineteen Fifties, unable to think about anybody would wish to play with a doll with breasts. Barbie, like so many ladies, has at all times discovered herself labeled an excessive amount of or not sufficient.
Gerwig, because it seems, got down to deal with this level from the start. “If Barbie has been a symbol of all the ways we’re not enough, the only thing that made sense to me to tackle in the movie was: how could we turn it to be enough?” she stated in an interview with The New York Instances.
Is Barbie a optimistic or unfavourable function mannequin for younger ladies? Ought to she put on excessive heels or Birkenstocks — or is it attainable to maintain each in a single’s closet? Everybody has a distinct thought about how Barbie must be, similar to everybody appears to have totally different concepts about what a lady can and must be. And based on Gerwig’s film, the one reply that issues is one’s personal.