The upcoming Barbie movie is undoubtedly one of the most highly anticipated films of the decade, captivating people worldwide thanks to its exceptional PR stunts and accurate portrayal of Barbie. Every genius move by Barbie's marketing team has contributed to the frenzy, from the Malibu Dreamhouse mansion to Margot Robbie's effortless portrayal of Barbie and her classic outfits.
The trailer, released this year, presented us with a seemingly flawless and colorful world full of dolls, only to reveal the flaws in Barbie's reality. Some people have speculated that it's "kind of like The Matrix, but for girls"– I'm not sure how accurate that statement is, but it's clear that the movie appeals to millions for obvious reasons: It's hyper-feminine, fun, and it truly embodies Barbie. Plus, there's a lot of pink – to the point that it resulted in a dye shortage.
You'd think everyone would celebrate this lighthearted film. Instead, it's unveiled the misogyny within individuals who masquerade as liberal feminists.
The History of Barbie
The story of Barbie is very wholesome and sweet. Barbie actually has a full name: Barbara Millicent Roberts. She was named after Ruth Handler's (co-founder of Mattel) daughter, Barbara, and Ken was named after her son, Kenneth. Handler’s “inspiration for Barbie came from watching her daughter project her dreams and aspirations onto paper dolls.” The businesswoman also recognized the lack of dolls resembling women in the toy industry – most toys were baby dolls or child-like figures.
As a result, Barbie was introduced to the world in 1959, having been based on Bild Lili (a German doll who resembles Barbie). But Mattel's mission went beyond mere physical representation of women; they were determined to showcase Barbie as various women in different professions and styles. She was the OG “girlboss,” if you will. She was a model, fashion designer, nurse, babysitter, flight attendant, doctor, etcetera. Barbie’s design was always glamorous and model-like, with her slender figure, long legs, and pretty features. She aimed to project an aspirational (instead of retable) image that girls could look up to.
As for Barbie's extensive outfits, Handler believed that fashion played a vital role in self-expression and personal identity. By providing Barbie with a wide range of clothes and accessories, girls could explore Barbie’s persona and create their own narratives. These wonderful attributes of Barbie emphasized femininity, which is supposed to be empowering and not limiting. It was intended to show that being feminine is not a weakness and that kids can express their individuality through fashion and personal interests. Barbie was truly for the girls.
Though the live-action movie opted for Barbie’s original design, she’s evolved to become more inclusive and diverse over time, helping all girls to see themselves in her. The film has also made efforts to make it relatable, yet some people are still unhappy with its route.
Detractors and Their Hatred Toward Femininity
Earlier this month, The Sydney Morning Herald wrote a think piece called, "Living doll Margot Robbie can do better than dressing like Barbie." The writer – Damien Woolnough – discusses Robbie's promotional dresses for the Barbie movie and raises concerns about "reinforcing stereotypes" rather than "challenging" them. He believes that the outfits fail to push boundaries. He brings up supermodel Claudia Schiffer, who served as an inspiration for one of Robbie's dresses, and how her image is representative of the "traditional blonde, buxom, wasp-waisted and arched foot Barbie associated with thin-ideal internalisation."
Hollywood definitely favored the blonde bombshell for decades, and Marilyn Monroe and Pamela Anderson were considered the most stunning women of their time. But the filmdom has done a pretty great job of being more inclusive, and the last big blockbuster I could remember with a Barbie carbon copy was Legally Blonde. It's been a long time since we've had a movie reminiscent of that, and given how Barbie is eyeing an $80 million opening, it seems that people are very happy with the traditional blonde archetype.
The author questions why Robbie doesn't showcase her professional side by wearing “powerful” (he cites Alexander McQueen as an example) and challenging outfits, similar to male actors who opt for suits over superhero costumes during premieres. Woolnough’s conclusion, however, was the one that boggled the minds of many women: “Let’s see the real Robbie in intelligent outfits that show there’s more inside the head of Barbie than the faint scent of plastic.”
My question is, what constitutes an “intelligent” outfit? If he means the outrageous Hunger Games-esque costumes Kylie Jenner and Doja Cat put on this past year, he might as well just revisit red-carpet premieres. The Met Gala and Paris Fashion Week are full of interesting outfit choices that certainly go beyond the mundane. Besides, Barbie is rated PG-13, so it makes sense why director Greta Gerwig would go the safer route. Even if she didn't, the outrageous outfit choices wouldn't match Barbie at all. Lastly, if I’m hyperfeminine, love pink, and have fun dressing like a Barbie girl, does that make me unintelligent? It's upsetting that Woolnough's overall tone comes off as judgmental to girls who just want to innocently embrace the Paris Hilton aesthetic.
He’s not the only one to come forward and criticize the Barbie movie. Others have commented on feminists' disapproval of Barbie's "bimbo" image that appeals to the "male gaze." I find it ironic that "feminists" would use that term, considering how misogynistic it is. A lot of them believe Barbie's image is based on patriarchal perceptions of femininity and beauty. I won't argue about the fact that men have played a role in how women have dressed for hundreds of years, but I will say that many of us deeply resonate with and love the so-called hyperfeminine looks. It's almost innate for many young girls. For example, my mom often purchased gender-neutral toys, but I remember wanting Barbie dolls and Polly Pockets. Thus, the natural affinity toward girly things isn't necessarily because of the patriarchy, and the excitement toward this film proves a renewed appreciation for femininity.
Robbie discussed Barbie's image in her recent Vogue cover story, stating that Barbie doesn't dress up to attract men. "[Barbie] is sexualised. But she should never be sexy. People can project sex onto her … Yes, she can wear a short skirt, but because it’s fun and pink. Not because she wanted you to see her butt," she said. I agree with her. Some women dress up to look sexy to attract men, but some of us just do it because it's fun and a form of self-expression. Women are learning to love their bodies and can embrace them by opting for clothes that accentuate their attributes. What's wrong with that?
Margot Robbie and the “Mid” Discourse
Robbie wasn’t only dissed for her clothes. She was also criticized for being “mid” and not meeting Barbie's beauty standards (even though she looks like a doll). Men online began stating that she was average and subpar, that she was cast because "she isn't pretty enough to alienate a female audience." The misogynistic Twitter user who stated this, @KILLTOPARTY, kept asking others in the comment section: "Where are her [Robbie] big Barbie doll t*ts"? Surprisingly, other men came to his defense and agreed with him, and they all discussed how Robbie’s looks were a bore.
For the past couple of years, I’ve been thinking about how social media and pornography have shaped peoples’ perceptions almost to the point of no return. I believe those who heavily consume porn have a skewed perception of beauty. If you don’t have fake, big breasts, perfect skin, or look like a filter, you’re “mid” or below average. In a sense, porn-brain has become a new – and insanely damaging – sexual preference.
They no longer find naturally pretty women attractive. They are undersocialized and struggle with seeing value in women, and as such, demonize them for virtually everything: their looks, their manner of speaking, their lifestyle choices, and so on. The hype surrounding Margot Robbie and the Barbie movie has unveiled these deeply pained men and their insecurities, showing us again that misogyny has not at all died in modern society.
Femininity Under Attack
It honestly feels like women can't win these days – if you're girly, you're probably unintelligent. If you're a natural, pretty woman, you're mid. It appears that anytime a woman openly expresses herself, or simply exists (like Robbie, for example), they will get attacked for something. The attack is worse if they promote femininity, thanks to liberal feminists who have demonized the term.
If you’ve made it this far, you can agree that women and femininity are under attack by liberal feminists and misogynistic men. Liberal feminists need to realize that some women deeply resonate with the traditional qualities of femininity – it makes them happy, and they want to embrace it. Meanwhile, liberal feminists are usually associated with alternative fashion, not shaving, dyed hair, and piercings. These are generalizations, but they do the same thing with women who identify as more "feminine." Nevertheless, how they dress is up to them, and they should be able to express themselves and embrace their uniqueness – why do they have to attack the women who are into femininity and girly things?
Many magazines today embrace androgynous looks, we're different in that we celebrate feminine wardrobe and attributes. We're not trying to cancel out the media publications that are geared toward celebrating androgynous styles, we just want to provide balance and to highlight the women who have decided to embrace femininity. We want girls to know that it's okay to resonate with Barbie and that you're not plastic for doing so.
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