It is the summer season of Barbiecore trend, “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 sizzling — it does not do a modicum of justice to the actually immersive expertise that being a Barbie fan this summer season 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 really a big assortment of scholarship that has backed up the concept that the doll hasn’t typically been nice for women’ physique picture. For instance, a 2006 research in Developmental Psychology discovered that women between ages 5 and eight who had 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 yet one more 2021 research from the identical journal. It is pretty exhausting to disclaim that the unique Barbie’s physique is not practical; in any case, 2014 Medical Every 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 must 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 season 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 all the time had lots going for it; it is directed by Greta Gerwig, who has constructed a status for making complicated feminist masterpieces like “Lady Bird” and “Little Women,” and it boasts a various, star-studded solid of Barbies and Kens. “Barbie” can also 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, referred to as “Stereotypical Barbie” and embodied with precision by Margot Robbie, believes that Barbie has made the actual world a improbable place for girls till she really enters actuality. There, she’s met by a bunch of center schoolers who label her a “fascist” and inform her she symbolizes the whole lot that has held ladies again.
The movie solely grows extra self-aware from there, and at one level, when Robbie’s Barbie laments that she does not look excellent anymore, a voiceover tells the filmmakers that they should not have solid Robbie in the event that they wished to make this level. However does the film actually reach ameliorating the hurt that “Stereotypical Barbie” and her model of femininity has and arguably nonetheless does trigger? In any case, the film has sparked world Barbie fever, and though the precise movie does an unimaginable 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 season full of warmth waves and disappointingly little scholar debt aid, all of us need to rejoice.
Then once more, Barbie interrupts a superb occasion by speaking about dying, which does not appear too totally different from interrupting the summer season of “Barbie” celebration by overanalyzing what the film has to say about ladies. 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 lovely 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 unique 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 by chance 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 normal?
“Barbie” really 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, exhibits as much as ship a couple of life classes close to the movie’s conclusion. She tells everybody that her Barbie was by no means meant to appear like somebody attainable or practical for most individuals; that wasn’t the purpose. Barbie the doll is a fantasy, identical 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 should always cease interrogating whether or not Barbie is dangerous to women’ self-image, although alternatively, labeling any type of femininity as “bad” has its personal points. However by highlighting the truth that perfection is barely an thought and that it could actually’t and should not have to carry up in the actual 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.
In fact, celebrating enjoyable, pink, and glitter is a crucial and worthwhile a part of “Barbie” as nicely. 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 actual world. (Brilliantly, “Barbie” makes the purpose that Ken’s want to stay in a patriarchal society principally comes from the truth that he is extraordinarily insecure, although the Ken query deserves a totally totally different essay.)
This brings up one other aspect of the critiques which were leveled at Barbie since she was created — the concept that 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. A long time 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-Evening, executive-coded Barbie. Nonetheless, “Stereotypical Barbie” — presumably the one these protests had been concentrating on — has by no means been capable of shake off the bimbo accusations, although “Barbie” itself makes the argument that “Barbie isn’t a bimbo” greater than as soon as. Sarcastically, 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 ladies’s value 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 together 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 forsaking her glamorous high-heeled previous and coming into the actual 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 crucial argument that Barbie, identical to any given lady, isn’t 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 had been really apparently her unique critics. Based on Time, male opponents laughed Handler out of the room when she first unveiled her doll within the Fifties, unable to think about anybody would wish to play with a doll with breasts. Barbie, like so many ladies, has all the time discovered herself labeled an excessive amount of or not sufficient.
Gerwig, because it seems, got down to tackle 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 damaging position mannequin for younger women? Ought to she put on excessive heels or Birkenstocks — or is it attainable to maintain each in a single’s closet? Everybody has a unique thought about how Barbie ought to be, identical to everybody appears to have totally different concepts about what a lady can and ought to be. And in line with Gerwig’s film, the one reply that issues is one’s personal.