It is the summer season 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 sizzling — it does not do a modicum of justice to the really 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 usually been nice for women’ physique picture. For instance, a 2006 examine 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, the same examine within the journal Physique Picture got here to the same conclusion, and that discovering was replicated in yet one more 2021 examine 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 examine 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 12 months later, Mattel started releasing Barbies with three completely different physique varieties: 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 far 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 loads going for it; it is directed by Greta Gerwig, who has constructed a repute 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 be deeply self-aware in regards to 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 implausible place for ladies till she really enters actuality. There, she’s met by a gaggle of center schoolers who label her a “fascist” and inform her she symbolizes every little thing 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 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 should rejoice.
Then once more, Barbie interrupts a wonderful social gathering by speaking about dying, which does not appear too completely different from interrupting the summer season of “Barbie” celebration by overanalyzing what the film has to say about girls. In that spirit, regardless of what number of self-aware voiceovers and facet feedback Gerwig inserts, it is exhausting to get previous the truth that the film stars Robbie, a conventionally stunning white girl. 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: may we by chance be idealizing a form of womanhood (learn: skinny, white, etcetera) that’s already extraordinarily idealized on the expense of everybody who cannot dwell 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, reveals as much as ship just a few 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 practical for most individuals; that wasn’t the purpose. Barbie the doll is a fantasy, similar to Barbieland. She’s an concept, and, as Handler says, “Ideas live forever.”
Simply because the film is self-aware about “Stereotypical Barbie”‘s flaws doesn’t suggest we should always cease interrogating whether or not Barbie is dangerous to women’ self-image, although however, labeling any type of femininity as “bad” has its personal points. However by highlighting the truth that perfection is barely an concept and that it will possibly’t and should not have to carry up in the true world, “Barbie” undoubtedly makes an necessary level — one which hasn’t essentially translated to mainstream discourse in regards to 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 helpful 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 dwell in a patriarchal society principally comes from the truth that he is extraordinarily insecure, although the Ken query deserves a totally completely different essay.)
This brings up one other facet of the critiques which have been leveled at Barbie since she was created — the concept that she promotes a regressive, subservient form of femininity. In 1972, the Nationwide Group For Girls protested Barbie and different dolls in entrance of New York’s Toy Truthful 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-Evening, executive-coded Barbie. Nonetheless, “Stereotypical Barbie” — presumably the one these protests have been concentrating 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 form of feminism that celebrates femininity in and of itself and rejects girlboss feminism, which equates girls’s price with skilled success.
One way or the other, “Barbie” even manages to interrogate this concept, although once more, it does not provide 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 forsaking 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 girl, 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 really apparently her unique critics. In response to 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 all the time 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 mentioned in an interview with The New York Instances.
Is Barbie a constructive or damaging position mannequin for younger ladies? Ought to she put on excessive heels or Birkenstocks — or is it doable to maintain each in a single’s closet? Everybody has a unique concept about how Barbie must be, similar to everybody appears to have completely different concepts about what a girl can and must be. And in line with Gerwig’s film, the one reply that issues is one’s personal.