The first look of the Barbie live-action film, starring Margot Robbie, recently dropped, and I was enthralled. Mostly because, one, Robbie looked perfect as Barbie, two, I have faith in whatever magic Greta Gerwig will whip up for the film, THIRD, Ryan *photoshopped* Gosling. Need I say more?
But the overarching cause of my excitement is Barbie itself. The doll has often been at the centre of criticism for her biologically-impossible figure that set unachievable body standards. But Ruth Handler’s Barbie did spark change because, prior to the doll’s inception, girls were encouraged to play with baby dolls, limiting their imagination to nurturing skills and maternal instinct. And with Barbie’s arrival girls had something more to aspire to.
Though she started off as a teen fashion model, Barbie quickly worked her way up to an astronaut, surgeon, athlete, Rockette, basketball player and President. Well, imagination, life is your creation.
While her name is actively used as a slur by plebians and highfalutin alike, Barbie represents more than beauty and materialism, perhaps, mutability, imagination and professional possibilities; after all, she did go to the moon four years before Neil.
In 2016, Barbie tried to get ahead of the long-standing criticism and plummeting sales with a new line of dolls – new bodies, skin tones and #TheDollEvolves, providing kids and parents a diverse choice with pantsuits, jhumkas-donning Barbie making an appearance in 2022.
I have no idea what Greta Gerwig’s imagining will end up like. What I do know is that having been around so long, Barbie has been able to reflect on many shortcomings and challenges in the ongoing story of growing up female.
Do you remember Barbie saying, “Authority should derive from the consent of the governed, not from the threat of force,” in Toy Story 3? No? Well, now you know!
PS: Know someone who disses Barbie? Go on and educate them. Better yet, ask them to subscribe to Just One Thing.