Content material warning: The next story accommodates spoilers for “Barbie.”

I’m a preteen lady, rising up in Brooklyn within the 2000s. My dad, for causes I don’t perceive on reflection, has a house supply subscription to the New York Publish. I’m flipping by way of the paper after I see a small information article that catches my eye. A center schooler in New York was suspended for sporting a T-shirt that stated “Barbie is a lesbian.” What?!

I do not know precisely after I examine this, because the Publish coated each when Natalie Hodges’s mother filed a lawsuit in opposition to the Division of Schooling and when she finally settled the case, profitable $35,000 and a brand new Schooling Division costume code coverage that made college students’ free speech rights clear. Natalie Hodges (who I’ve tried very exhausting to find this summer time, and in case you by probability are studying this, please electronic mail) does not pop up in any extra media protection. I’ve by no means met anybody who remembered this story after I talked about it to them.

However I remembered it. “Barbie is a lesbian.”

Barbie is not a lesbian, or no less than Mattel’s official Barbie is not. In a Might interview with Vogue, “Barbie” director Greta Gerwig famous that Ken was created by the corporate after Barbie launched, as a result of individuals wrote letters demanding she get a boyfriend. “Ken was invented after Barbie, to burnish Barbie’s position in our eyes and in the world. That kind of creation myth is the opposite of the creation myth in Genesis,” Gerwig stated. That quote caught with me for weeks after I learn that interview, and it got here to thoughts usually when watching “Barbie,” which was lastly launched July 21.

Once I watch “Barbie,” I see a personality making an attempt to launch herself from the scripted roles of her society, who needs to search out out who she actually is on her personal.

Within the movie, Margot Robbie’s Barbie (referred to within the film as Stereotypical Barbie) does not need to be with Ryan Gosling’s Ken. It does not matter that they are excellent collectively, that they appear like a twin set. When he asks to spend the night time, she tells him it is women’ night time each night time, and when he tries to lean in for a kiss, she undoubtedly does not need one. Later within the film, when all the opposite Barbies are brainwashed by the Kens to serve them in a very twisted model of the patriarchy, Stereotypical Barbie is the one one of many “normal” Barbies the brainwashing engaged on. She wonders if it is as a result of she was tainted by visiting the actual world. However to me watching it, it appears Robbie’s Barbie is a lesbian.

I grew up a Barbie lady. I had dozens. I not too long ago went by way of some outdated household pictures and located no less than three Barbie-themed birthday muffins. Each Christmas rising up, my mother bought me the yr’s Christmas Barbie with the matching decoration, and each vacation season I nonetheless set the ornaments assortment out on a shelf.

I keep in mind having actually one Ken doll. My brother — who hated Barbie — ripped his head off as a result of Ken, a boy, should not be compelled to play with Barbie. So my Barbies had been by no means compelled into relationships with Ken. I did not make them fall in love with one another both — no less than not that I can keep in mind — however they lived in a Barbie-centered universe. They had been extra prone to go on an journey with a unicorn Beanie Child than they had been to marry Ken. Barbie’s world is a woman’s world, and it was my world. So if Barbie could possibly be a lesbian, what did that imply about me?

I lastly realized I used to be bisexual in my mid-twenties (although it took for much longer to be totally “out”). Once I look again on the years it took me to get to that time, I keep in mind all of the little moments that I might saved in my reminiscence that different individuals — straight individuals — simply did not. I remembered each single superstar I might ever heard was bi. I could not hearken to a Melissa Etheridge tune with out serious about how she was singing a couple of lady. And I remembered the “Barbie is a lesbian” shirt.

Within the days since its launch, I’ve seen individuals argue that “Barbie” shouldn’t be queer “enough.” A few of the Barbies and Kens are performed by LGBTQ+ actors, together with Hari Nef, who mirrored on what taking part in Barbie means to her as a trans lady. Kate McKinnon’s “Weird” Barbie, Michael Cera’s Allan, and the numerous odd, offcast Barbies (together with Earring Magic Ken and Sugar Daddy Ken) all appear to be, if not canonically queer, implicitly queer. They do not actually belong in Barbieland and its heteronormativity. They’re sidelined.

Warner Bros.

However the central journey of Robbie’s Barbie appears queer to me, too, and I do not suppose it is delicate. This Barbie does not need to kiss Ken. She solely cares about women. She has extra chemistry with America Ferrera’s Gloria than any Ken doll. She actually transitions from a doll right into a human. This Barbie shouldn’t be straight.

All through the film, Stereotypical Barbie, when confronted with change, says she needs to remain precisely the identical. She will be able to’t be having ideas of demise or flat toes, as a result of that is simply not who she is. These moments jogged my memory of 1999’s “But I’m a Cheerleader,” during which Natasha Lyonne’s Megan says the long-lasting title line — she will be able to’t be a lesbian, she’s a cheerleader. She tells everybody that she’s not a gay, she’s “normal,” although everybody else can see the reality. Stereotypical Barbie does not need to settle for that she’s rising and altering as a result of it is scary, and I noticed my very own queer journey — my very own fears over how popping out would shake my life — by way of her eyes.

In the actual world — the world the place human beings purchase Barbies and Kens and do no matter they need with them — Barbies and Kens are sometimes homosexual. Ken has at all times been a homosexual icon, his “masculine” outfits and completely sculpted abs usually falling on the facet of camp. And plenty of queer girls made their Barbies scissor and grind with out actually understanding what that meant. Each dolls have carried out issues Mattel might by no means have imagined, opening a door to play and creativeness. The corporate did not imply to make two plastic queer icons, however they did.

Close to the top of the film, when a lot of the plot has been resolved, Sasha (Ariana Greenblatt) asks what Barbie’s glad ending is. Will Ferrell’s Mattel CEO factors out that she will get Ken. That is the ending that is scripted for her, the ending Mattel has at all times had in retailer for her. And that is the ending that is been scripted for plenty of us — heterosexual marriage, a giant marriage ceremony costume, a good-looking, if bland, groom. However Barbie does not need it. And the film does not make her take it. She will get to decide on one thing else.

Is Barbie a lesbian? Technically, Robbie’s Barbie by no means says these phrases. However I’m a queer lady, so after I maintain Barbie in my hand, after all she is not straight. Once I watch “Barbie,” I see a personality making an attempt to launch herself from the scripted roles of her society, who needs to search out out who she actually is on her personal. There’s nothing queerer than that.

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