Barbie never lets you down. She was born (invented, more like it) in 1959, four years before me, and was a staple of my childhood. I had one Barbie doll and kept her glamorous while combing her hair and badgering my parents to buy her all those accessories to make her look even more beautiful. This was was in keeping with the birth of the upsell of capitalism i.e buy this but buy that too to keep your joy going.
Contrary to those who think that Barbie is a negative influence, this desperation to match Barbie didn’t ravage me. Probably because Barbie had orange skin, was a Caucasian and an adult. Barbie was always an adult. I, on the other hand, was a Brown skinned short child.
However, I seem to have made up for this deficit by using AI to generate a Barbie look for myself in the video above. Perhaps Barbie did get to me after all and in my midlife. The young woman is my daughter’s best friend who watched the movie with me.
None of this is written to mitigate against the impossible beauty standards which Barbie HAS set and the negative impact on females who tried to mimic her.
In fact, the film, released last week, recognizes the role Barbie has played in perpetuating body image problems for women. The sub-plot revolves around Ken’s masculinity dilemmas. He gets in a twist about it all and his clothing evolution is very entertaining to watch. However, Barbie is firmly the main star of the movie. Margot Robbie plays the part beautifully and there’s even a snide remark half way through about her being cast in the role precisely because she looks like Barbie.
You will not be disappointed if you decide to watch it. It’s an extremely cleverly done movie which serves up pink fluff but with a serious message on feminism. It’s a dual purpose movie which uses an age old timeless doll, resonating with boomers through to current day little girls, and twins its message with a large dose of self awareness to drag Barbie and the viewer into the 21st century.
Greta Gerwig has done a fantastic job. When you get to the end of this post, click on the YouTube video.
The secondary protagonist called Gloria, played by America Ferrera, of ‘Ugly Betty’ fame, is a modern day kickass feminist fighting to be recognised in a male dominated world. Below is an excerpt from her speech in the movie which has, allegedly, caused men to walk out of the cinema at this point. Male fragility (warning – this link contains spoilers) and all that.
‘…I am just so tired of watching myself and every single other woman tie herself into knots so that people will like us. And if all of that is also true for a doll just representing women, then I don’t even know’ – Gloria in Barbie.
There are some who have not taken to the movie and others who have politicised it. Fancy burning beautiful Barbie. Only a dark soul does that. At the end of the day Barbie is a doll – a toy- and any meaning attributed to her is down to a societal construction and clever cunning marketing.
Let me know what you think if you do watch it.