Today, we are undressing the layers of Barbie glitter and hype to explore what is really going on with her monumental comeback. Is this Barbie revival the nostalgic tonic we need, or simply a last-ditch attempt to resuscitate the Barbie brand from a bygone era? Can she ever really be a feminist icon?
We talk about Ryan Gosling's portrayal of Ken, Margot Robbie's casting as Barbie, and the influence of "Legally Blonde," "Sex and the City," and even "Playboy" on the Barbie brand. We'll also be examining the curvy and diverse Barbies, and asking how inclusive they really are?
And finally we’ll be sharing your own Barbie confessions as you reveal your personal stories with the iconic doll - and who could forget Sindy?
Follow us on Instagram for news and behind-the-scenes @s2tcpodcast
If you like the show, please rate or review it and don't forget to share it.
This series is produced by Emily Crosby Media.
Click here for the full transcript
Lisa and Sarah
Barbie, she's everywhere right now and hard to escape from. Today we're taking a look underneath all the hype and potential agendas going on with this revival. Barbie is
now 60 years old and facing what people are calling the most expensive rebrand in the world.
Barbies owner Mattel has teamed up with Warner Brothers and spent $145 million and another 100 million on the marketing.
With so much at stake. We just had to know what people really think about Barbie's big comeback. Is she just a relic from a bygone era desperately dragged back from the last century?
Or maybe, just maybe we're totally into this whole thing because it takes us back to being younger than we loved our Barbies. Remember all that pink glitter and sparkles, pretending that we had the most beautiful dresses and picture-perfect houses. And of course, let's not forget can
can we have a lot to say about Kevin? Okay, Sarah,
get into the hot pink convertible because we're going straight to the comments. So Sarah, in preparation for this episode, I actually asked our lovely Instagram followers if they were planning to see Barbie, and I can reveal that 65% said they were planning to say it. And 35% said they're not going to say it. I found that interesting because I actually thought everyone was going to say it from what you're seeing online.
Yeah, I think online definitely. And I maybe had that perception too. But when I mentioned I was going to see it I actually had people going I didn't even know there was a Barbie movie. So I don't know how I missed it. But
so today we're going to talk all things Barbie, including we're gonna talk about the film, the online reactions, your reactions, which you shared with us on Instagram, including what you really think of Barbie what you really did to your Barbies, which really crack Sarah and I up and more on that later. But first I thought we'd do a quick Barbie origin story and a bit more about the business side of this and what's at stake for Mattel with this huge Barbie comeback. So Barbie was invented by Ruth Handler in the 1950s. Ruth was the co founder with her husband Alia of the toy company Mattel. And she was inspired by watching their daughter play with sort of make believe paper dolls of adult women. And in that moment, Ruth realised there was a sort of unfulfilled niche in the market for a toy that allowed for girls to imagine their future. And it was actually while she was on holiday in Switzerland, she saw this beautiful blonde doll in a Swiss toy shop window and she was actually quite captivated with it. And when she went inside to inquire about it, she found out it was called Lilly. And it was in fact a sort of sex toy joke handed out at bachelor parties. But that didn't deter her she brought the doll, put it in her handbag, went back to America, she actually ordered for it to be made up into a prototype. And just to discuss Barbies proportions, she's got this 39 inch bust, 21 inch waist and 33 inch hips.
I do remember reading that, you know if Bobby was a real person, someone had done these calculations that her BMI would be so low, she wouldn't be able to bend straight. Her body could only fit half a liver and a small part of her intestines that she'd be so unbalanced. That she wouldn't actually be able to stand up she just topple over. Yeah, another researcher calculated it was possible for a woman to have the same figure as Barbie, but the chances were less than one in 100,000.
I mean, it's insane, isn't it really because like this, the thing that Ruth made this prototype and she took it along to the New York Toy Fair in 1959. And she sort of showed it to the sort of what was a very male dominated toy industry. She showed it to the kind of buyers and they were like, you cannot seriously want to sell that doll. It's improper. Look at her breasts. It's just all wrong. You know, little girls want to play with baby dolls and pretend to be mummy, but boy, were they wrong. I mean, Barbie has made billions Mattel and accounts for 73% of its revenues I found in a Forbes article. Nine out of 10 American girls own a Barbie. The Barbie brand has a staggering 99% brand awareness globally. Barbies had over 250 careers too many to mention. And Barbie was on her own for a full five years before they introduced Ken in 1961. Wow. But of course, she came with a lot of criticism and a huge backlash, especially in the 70s
Oh, absolutely. Because growing up in the 80s I was very aware of that. And you know, there was actually research from 2006 that found that girls who are aged six to eight if they played with and witnessed her impossible beauty standards, it actually led to an increase in their body dissatisfaction because it basically ingrained the pressure to be thin and it left them with negative emotions about their own size. On the other hand, girls who played with fuller figure dolls were not as conscious so that's quite an interesting finding. But a lot of people have very positive memories of it. So I saw this comment on New York Times that said, as a Latina whose looks doesn't fit the Barbie mould I still never understood the hate this doll. I had many I was growing up, and these dolls helped me express my imagination. I'm quite fond reminiscing on the stories and worlds I created for my dolls. I never saw the dollars a person to strive to be. But the stories I created, were more of a reflection of what was going on in my youth. So that's an interesting, different perspective. But the research suggests otherwise,
let's say Barbie had this phenomenal success. But she did start to have a decline by the mid 2000s. I mean, she faced serious competition, you know, she'd had 90% of the market share. I mean, that is staggering. She had no competitor until Thr Bratz came along in the mid 2000s. Do you remember them?
Kind of I mean, I never played with them. I was too old, but they had a sort of different sort of edgy, like really big head sort of look, if I remember correctly. Yeah,
they really made Barbie look quite uncool and, and sort of dated. And then obviously, we had all the Disney princesses. So Barbie sales really plummeted from their peak in 1993. So Barbie really was coming, like our fashion just wasn't the demand anymore. But then in 2016, they sort of staged a sort of mini comeback sort of to combat this decline. They came out with this sort of new diverse line of dolls with different body types. So they had tall, curvy and petite dolls. They actually made Zendaya Barbie doll,
who I would imagine is still a very thin Barbie
still a little bit to the stereotype. Something I found confusing when researching this episode is sort of a bit unclear about this curvy Barbie because they actually made an Ashley Graham one a couple of years ago, you know the plus size supermodel. And she kind of was there posing with her doll and I was like well, did they make the doll? Well, no, it was just all a big publicity stunt. They never actually put the doll into production. So I found that a little bit confusing what the purpose of that was. And a lot of people said oh, I would have loved to have had this doll. So that's something I find confusing when Barbie tries to take on the plus size or fat, curvy body shapes.
Yeah, it's really interesting because you mentioned the curvy Barbie book BBC BBC News story in it that calculated that curvy Barbie would have actually been a UK size six to eight waist and size eight hips. So it's not really that curvy. I don't know if you remember this, I remember in it was in the 1997 The Body Shop launched a campaign where they sort of created a computer generated figurine called Ruby. It was chubby cheeked, it was chestnut head and it was a brainchild of the self esteem campaign Love Your Body long before I think dove did that. She was a size 16 And it was accompanied by the caption there are 3 billion women who don't look like supermodels and only eight who do and she sent the message that you should love what you've got not low that and I just always remember that it really jumped out on me at the time.
Oh my goodness, I could see a picture of her now. I've looked it up. She kind of looks like me naked. Now. I shouldn't say.
Think you could say that? Yeah, she's much more realistic.
So the stakes are high for Mattel, right? There's $80 billion being spent on toys every year, and nearly all the toys that were launched in the 80s. I mean, it was compulsory that they came with a cartoon, even a film you remember My Little Pony, Care Bears nearly all of them had cartoons.
I actually don't remember the cartoons for them. I just remember the the toys themselves. I remember it in the other direction where cartoons then launched a whole new merchandise range.
You couldn't launch a toy basically without a show being attached to it. And I think this is a really important point because I really like the quote that Martin Scorsese said about what we're seeing in the cinema, the sort of last 15 years that we've sort of got stuck in what we call what he called amusement parks cinema. You know, you've got all the comic book films like Marvel, DC, what they call intellectual property, probably a lot of you know about intellectual property, but you just take something like a comic, like Batman, and you just keep cycling it and recycling it. It's like a built in fan base. It's easy, low risk to make most of the time. And that's why we're seeing in the cinema just this repetition, because it's just so expensive to make movies, right? Yeah. Interesting is that lately, the Marvel films, Star Wars and even the new Indiana Jones The kindness, losing their love, and not performing as well in the box office, but then Hollywood still wants to make these films are a bit sort of like well, we know there's going to be an interest in a fan base sort of ready made. So what does Mattel do? They hire a top entertainment executive as their CEO. He's male by the way to turn all the sort of IP or their toys into entertainment kind of gold. And so yeah, I mean they got 45 toys they could potentially making two films, including Polly Pocket. I guess
I'm bracing myself for a lot more of these toy themed movies Barbie two and three and maybe even four.
Yeah, that's if Mattel allowed Margot Robbie to come back. certain player over the next 30 years or maybe they CGI her to be younger like Harrison Ford. So I hope that paints a good picture of why Metalla putting so much on this Barbie film.
Yeah, and they really are because the marketing has been insane. And it's just been everywhere. I mean, I went into a BM b&m store and I just saw these like cake bars that were Barbie cake bars. And it was it was just it's filtered down to everything. I've seen some comments about the marketing, for example, there was a guardian comment said, And the Oscar goes to the marketing team. And someone replied, all this hype has the inverse effect on me. I don't want to see it as I'm feeling forced. And there was a Daily Mail comment that said, I'm so tired of the Barbie PR. Just yesterday, I went to the local bakery. And all the pastries were pink or had pink icing. The front person said it's Barbie week insert eyeroll for me, did I buy any? No,
I agree. I mean, it's absolutely everywhere. I mean, they even tone Google pink the other day when I was searching for Barbie, or does Lee glittery stars kind of popped up and even turn like, you know, it's normally white. On the search results. It was pink backdrop. So I was like, That's an insane level of marketing that's like to think how much that cost. I mean, I imagined the marketing team is having the time of their lives. It's like a dream chop in many ways. And he actually reminds me when I did my brief stint doing sort of film marketing at Disney. And you know, when we were putting the kind of campaigns together for Avengers and the Muppets is so like so detailed, like every place you can be where you can be seen by your target demographic, you will be from YouTube takeovers, they call it where you completely take over the YouTube homepage, to even doing a Miss Piggy hot pink nail polish partnership. I mean, it's literally about like being everywhere. And what they talk about is like, you just got to maximise that IP as much as possible, including clothes, music, merchandise, just be everywhere. But a big part of it actually was getting the man online on site. And they were like they were considered like premium tier kind of press coverage. So we need to get their buy in. And also all the mommy bloggers, especially mums net. And so we were a bit of an I always felt personally not Disney, but I always felt personally a bit scared of mommy bloggers. And they could be savage and they could really just with film. So with this Barbie film, or was a bit like, Well, it's obviously a mother and daughter proposition here. You know, what do you think?
Well, it was interesting because I think there was some confusion about whether this was for adults or for kids like who it was aimed at. And the Lego films have been doing this for years and made for kids. But with adult jokes in there so that when the parents have to take them, they can enjoy it too. So someone asked on Mumsnet. Hi is this film, okay, for a nine year old. I've heard it's a 12 a, my daughter is desperate to see it. Thanks. And someone said there's nothing that inappropriate in it, and she'll enjoy the first 30 minutes. But a lot of the later themes might fly over her head and she'll end up bored anecdotally from other parents who took 10 year olds and younger.
But with this, it's been definitely marked as nostalgia entertainment, I think for women of our age, sort of 30 Maybe 35 Plus up so it'll be interesting to see if they can expand and build out a new fan base and if they will be selling more dolls off the back of this movie, or if they've kind of made a bit of a misstep with their target audience.
Then nostalgia things really interesting with saw this tweet that said this Barbie trend is some sort of collective aggression to childhood, most likely caused by insecurity, fear and anger combined current and future calamities. So then they had hashtag pandemics, climate disasters, economic precarity nuclear war, oh my god. Yeah. According to NIH insecurity, fear and anger can cause an adult to regress. In essence, individuals referred to a point in their development when they felt safer and when stress was non existent, or when an all powerful parent or another adult would have rescued them. But there's nobody to rescue us now. This entire country is in need of therapy. But interesting Nasr apply that said, I mean, maybe but also nostalgia is a hell of a drug, tonnes of movies and shows over the past what 50 years are based on Kids Toys and comic books, when they make a million Marvel movies or Star Wars or Mario Bros is this regression. So it's interesting suggesting the timing after the pandemic is a big part of it. But actually, it was in the works for many, many years before this. Getting on to the actual film itself. I mean, we're aiming to keep this as spoiler free as possible for people who still haven't seen it yet. And I imagine that's a lot. It's only just opened. But at least I know you went too early to see this film. What did you think of it?
Yes, I was there in Oslo Friday at 110. In the cinema, I just have to make a point about the cinema in Oslo because normally it's very quiet. And for some reason, there was these really rowdy teenage girls at the front. And they were like shouting sort of randomly in the middle of the film in inappropriate moment. And then really making each other crack up and I was like, oh my god, I'm officially middle aged and grumpy. I really want someone to go Sheesh. But no one said shushed them the whole way through. That's Norway. People are so polite. When I watched it, I just thought, Okay, this is like, to your point earlier, there's been so much bad news, so much heavy energy in the world. I was ready to take on all the rainbow sparkles and glitter sunshine of Barbie world. And I was, I mean, I really just absorbed it like sunshine, you know, I was loving it. I really love the first bit of it. Like when it was all happy world. And I loved I'm not like a good I'm not gonna try and give it away. But when Ken comes into the scene, and he has his storyline, I was cracking up so much. And I was really thinking, this is really hard. And I was really feeling for the director. It's really hard to stay on the brand. Bobby, like stay in the brand playbook. And it's what they need to sell Barbies. And Tom make a feminist film, thinking. This is actually impossible mission. I think they did a really good job. I really enjoyed it. Yeah, I thought Margot Robbie was fantastic. loved all the different diverse characters. Yes, I got the ending and I understood the main message. But it was weird. I don't feel feelings. But not feeling feelings. Like when I first saw Thurman Louise when I was like, 14, and I was like that rocked my world. Like, I know, it's not the perfect feminist film. But it rocked my world that message in that film. Yeah. And I saw Legally Blonde. I loved that film.
I love that film, too. Yeah.
Like it's hard. Like, I just think Legally Blonde, there was something about Reese Witherspoon and her character I just fell in love with. And the whole Elle Woods world was amazing. So for me, I didn't feel anything. That's the main takeaway.
I can completely relate to that. Because most people have also said they liked the beginning. And they got a bit bored more towards the end, I weirdly, almost had a bit of a reverse in the sense that I felt really uncomfortable right from the beginning. Oh, in that the tone was uneven. And I was really confused at what angle they were going through from because it felt both like you tried to be feminist and satirical. But at the same time, there's something not quite landing, it feels very much like you can feel the Mattel's hand behind it. It's like sort of self referential, but it's also and I was very unclear on the tone. It was just it felt uneven for me. And then later there were there were messages that I understood in and of themselves. I just don't think it was smooth overall. I mean, the first thing I noticed was there. Like you said they had the diversity of all the different Barbies. And there was there was a big Barbie, lawyer Barbie. But I remember the first thing thinking was, I know that Barbie has a lot of different iterations. But I absolutely doubt they've got a Barbie that that is that size. So it felt very much like okay, well are they going to bring that out? Because this feels a bit like they're ticking the boxes on the screen. But it doesn't represent what what's actually
Yeah, real sorry to jump in. Because I do have a point about this because I was intrigued. I ended up googling when I got home. Like what hard doll was. So I looked at her and who she was, and I thought I recognised her she Sharon Rooney playing the lawyer Barbie. And she's known for what she's a Scottish actress in Mad Fat Diary. And
I did not recognise her. But I have seen that and I love that show because it felt like the first show I'd ever seen something seen a character that was even, like, remotely resembling my experience of life without them being like a debt, a total downer that there was no love interest there was you know, not just the like, loser sidekick. This was like the main character and I you know that I love that show. So I didn't realise it was her. Yeah, but in this film, she was there, but she had no character and no agency and no, you had no sense of who she was as a character. Yeah, she
got and that was interesting. Because when I went on to the Barbie website, look at the dolls that have been manufactured for this film. They've got all of them except lawyer Barbie.
are interesting. So they've avoided those two, they wanted to actually take it on the screen, but they were like, Yeah, we're not going to follow through.
So what did you think of the film? Particularly Ken?
You know, what's really interesting is Ken was probably, for me the best part of the film, which is ironic because it's all about female empowerment and they're supposed to be subsidiary characters. You know, Margot Robbie is an amazing actress. And I think she did really well. But Ryan Gosling knocked it out of the park partly because I think he just had the he had the most established character with nuance, and he had the funniest lines in a way I saw on Twitter that people were complaining that he's getting the most credit for being the best part of the film, despite the fact that supposed to be all about female empowerment. It's like the one male main male character who's supporting is actually getting all the praise. And a comment regarding this was, I agree the optics aren't great, but can't you kind of blame the film itself. For this? Ken is written with the most outlandish personality, many of the best jokes, a decently sympathetic ending, and even his own song, which was hilarious, and it feels like by design, he was destined to be the fan favourite, and I agree with that. Yes, it was the most cohesive character and storyline. The other ones were very, it was confusing who was the message was from and what the message of the film was? Because it felt like they were conflicting in certain parts. What did you think of Ken?
I have to say that I agree. Like for me, he's really memorable. I came home and I just talked to my partner about it was like, it was so funny his scenes, I didn't really have much to say about Barbie, or stereotypical Barbie played by Margot Robbie. I just think that yeah, I think it was difficult, wasn't it? Because she's like the centrepiece of the film, Bobby. But she's kind of like the foil for him.
Well, yeah, I mean, I would say, and interestingly, the other really great character was, or entertaining character was Will Ferrell as the CEO of Mattel. So it's interesting in this whole show that has all these female characters that
know most say, Ireland, I thought Ireland was full.
Yeah, so actually, my favourite characters were the three men, interestingly, which goes against my natural impulse in general, I mean, you know, I'll choose novels written by women about women, those are my, you know, jam. But what felt was there was so trying to force a sort of agenda of what they were trying to say, and make it really progressive and appealing, and yet still push her sort of corporate thing of wanting to rebrand that it was just mismatched in the female characters, whereas actually, the male characters had that freedom to just be funny.
But this is the thing, right? Because you think about what's in Legally Blonde, right? With a spoon, I think is a naturally brilliant comic actress. And I think Margot Robbie, have I seen her? I mean, I Tanya had that dark comedy to her. And I know, she can do play comedy. But I for me, it's like, is it the actress? Not you know, hold off the comedy, or is it the part wasn't written like outwards like funny, you know,
for me, the main I thought Margot Robbie was an excellent actress, and even America for era. But the issue for me was the writing and the direction, which is interesting, because it's gotten praised so much. And that actually, what was really interesting was, I knew the critics reviews, were, were all positive. So far, the general consensus. So on Rotten Tomatoes, it's currently got a rating of 90%. And I remember watching it thinking, I'm not enjoying this, what something's wrong with this. But then doubting myself because everyone's going on about how amazing it is, and how clever it is, and how witty it is and how progressive it is. And and, you know, it was really interesting how I started questioning myself. And it really reminds me of the the bystander effect and social proof, which is that when situations are considered ambiguous, if you're not really sure of what you think you are driven by the assumption that people around you know more than you do. So you know, sort of if you have an opinion by yourself, and suddenly everyone around you are saying the opposite you go, I might be wrong. And that really came in for me because I started going have I missed something. Have I just missed it? Why? Why aren't I liking it? Like everyone else is saying it's amazing. What's wrong with me? Exactly.
But do you think on some level, like people are calling this a very woke film? Do you think people are scared to give it a bad review? Because they're like, I mean, she's got all the credentials, the directors that she Greta Gerwig I've loved a lot of her films, too. Going back to Francis. Ha, yeah, me too. Exactly. So I feel like even when the New York Times were to do an interview with her that like, I think everyone's like, Oh, but she's so cool. And she's like, done this. I mean, I don't want to call it a door in a derogatory way woke. But what I mean is, it's a shortcut for saying basically, it's like, right on, and it's cool, and it's very now, it's like, nobody really wants to go against that you want I mean,
all Barbie was on the cover of Time, even so it's getting a lot of even gravitas for something that's considered possibly a bit more fluffy. And what's really interesting is the way that they've positioned it is that it's very meta, and it's very self taking the piss out of itself, and it's very satirical. So the easy argument there is it sets itself up so that if you don't really think it works, then it's because you don't really get the irony. So you're not smart enough. You You know what I mean? That's a setup that well, if you don't like, it's just because you don't get it. You're not smart enough. It's actually really, really clever. And I'm like, not think it's as clever as it thinks it is. And
clever doesn't always make you feel right. And that's my point. You don't feel Yeah,
there wasn't there was, you know, there's a really big motivational speech at one point, I agree with conceptually what they were trying to say. And yet it left me cold that actual speech. So there was something that wasn't quite landing for me. I didn't quite believe what they were saying or that they meant what they were saying. And that's, that's, that's where I was left. Cold. I think there was that element of like, you really felt the corporate hand behind it. And I felt quite cynical as to do you believe that you're saying?
It? Yeah, maybe Mattel corporate board.
Yeah, like Barbie really does have the power to do all this stuff that you know,
we get you were so diverse. We get Yeah,
yeah. Yeah. There was a BBC News tweet that said, Why are we all obsessed with the Barbie movie? And interestingly, it's like, is that actually true? Or are we all being tricked into thinking that we are? So I saw some interesting replies one of which was we aren't it's just a massive saturation campaign on all fronts. That results in the feeling of it must be good, because it seems so popular. It might be a good film, but at the moment, it is hype, which to be fair seems to be very successful. And someone else wrote, I'm more obsessed by the mould growing on the cheese in my nan's fridge. So So yeah, no, I think it's like, and you don't know, I don't know how the world of movie reviews works and how much they're given kickbacks to promote certain things. I don't know. But I'm naturally cynical about it. So yeah,
me too. So let's go into some of the comments about Barbie that we found. So they range from the positive this tweet, Barbie is bright and pink and girly and joyful. Instead of moody and blue and grey, like so many movies lately.
Yeah, I totally get that because I often just sometimes want some frippery, let's call it a you know, something uplifting, something fun. Pink was my favourite colour as a child I was, you know, I wasn't a tomboy at all. And I get that. And also, there's definitely something fun about dressing up, like, you know, and liking all these things. I used to watch the Oscars, and I don't wear heels around the house. But there's part of me that looks at all these pretty things. And I think that's why like six Sex in the City when it came out. Oh, so many pretty things. And then at the same time, you feel like maybe you're selling out, you're letting down your feminist ideals and that and just reinforcing the idea that women are only to be looked at. And maybe I only like it because I've been socially conditioned to think that I should like it maybe actually, this is a whole you know, I don't like it but I don't know any better. And then you go round and round circles and you go sometimes you just want to be you just want to dress up and that's okay, too. And you just want to you know, have unicorn cupcakes that your 30th birthday, which Yes, I did.
Yeah, yeah. I think it's really interesting. You said this about sex and city because like, I feel that femininity, you know, when she was wearing all those knitted skirts like Carrie, and there's a little doll shoe she'd wear on her feet you know, it does feel very Barbie asked doesn't it? So it's kind of like it's never gone away. And I think that in Yeah, I mean, I know we have the right to be tomboys and dress and dungarees and play as well. But there is something about like, Are we allowed to embrace that super feminine side of herself still without being seen as like a bimbo? Or sort of, you know, on girly
and on Tik Tok there's been this whole bimbo trend where feminine presenting content creators are reclaiming the ones derogatory bimbo label and aesthetic. So you know supposedly instead of abandoning femininity to succeed in a patriarchal society, bimbo feminism embraces femininity while supporting women's advancements, but it's I think it's problematic. It's a bit like reclaiming the word slut. I'm like, why can't I just enjoy my sexuality without it being derived down to like that? Am I just buying? Am I just feeding into the same machine in a way,
but this is reminding me of like this strange kind of moment that Playboy had? I don't know if it still does, like in the mid 2000s. You know, Paris, Playboy Mansion, you know, suddenly, the Playboy merchandise. Yeah, it was the women. You know, it was kind of like, like the thing to look really sexy. And, yeah, we're going into like this whole other thing, but I sort of she really originally was like, a sex toy kind of gift for man. She's kind of just continued, but in different guises over the decades, you know?
Well, it's interesting to me because she said, you know, there are no dolls for girls to play as adults and an inspiration in an aspiration. away, but why did they have to look like a sex doll? Then she could have created a like, you know, Ruth Bader Ginsburg doll. You know, you did it. Why did it have to be? Why was that element so important? So that's what I find interesting.
There's a flagship toy shop right next to the cinema I went to in Oslo. I mean, it's the most beautiful toy shop. I went in there after the film. Have not been in there ever. I thought I'd just go in. Because I'm kids. I'll go in there and just see what Bobby looks like. What what are they selling now? And I said all couldn't see Barbie. So where are she? Are we don't sell Barbie. I said, why not? And she goes, Oh, yeah, we just don't like her from a psychological perspective. She's not healthy for young girls. Self esteem. In fact, you need to look at these dolls. So she showed me these dolls. And they've all been designed by kids for kids. With nine year old girl bodies. Oh, nice. Yeah. And I was so like, Go Norway. And like also that they resisted the pressure of Barbie and all the marketing, because they always thinking they've not done any windows to do a Barbie. They've not. Yeah, I have to just applaud Norway for like, sort of actually not giving into it. Yeah, I
love that. I love that.
So going back to the comments. So other comments about the film, they've highlighted the inconsistencies. And you know, like we said about the film being to matter. Time Magazine said it's a movie that's enormously pleased with itself. Barbie never lets us forget how clever it's being every exhausting minute.
Yeah, I have to agree with that. To be honest, I have to agree with that. Because I think when you go to Barbie, what you're looking for is some escapism, and it's jarring how they're trying to put the two things together. But in a Yeah, no, it was annoying. There was also some people still criticising that it's still damaging to women. There was another tweet that said everyone needs to stop acting like women are closeted Stepford Wives, there are plenty of things to unite women that don't involve everyone wearing pink to a movie. And that's sort of in response to everyone going this is like so great that we can finally all be together and have a female, a female cultural phenomenon. And then, interestingly, from people saying it's not actually really feminist. After all, you had people completely on the other side of the pendulum saying it's way too feminist and it's got a woke agenda. So there was one tweet that said, I'm a sucker for Robbie and Gosling, and this movie looked irreverent and cheeky. But I'm not going to subject myself and my family to a two hour feminist screed based on a children's toy that on ironically uses the word patriarchy 11 times when absolute waste of what looks to be a really fun, incredibly and whimsically designed idea. Hmm. And so she's counted the number of times patriarchy comes in. And you know, like, I've read a lot of feminist literature, but it did feel very on the nose to be honest. And, and there's also been a lot of criticism from the, you know, far right, US conservatives, saying it's, you know, way too, woke and pushing an agenda. So, there was one tweet that said, warning, do not take your child to the new Barbie film. It's full of demonic influences. And do not be surprised if your child suddenly starts to behave differently. Wow, that's impressive for a film. And then there was one response that I absolutely loved that said, Well, that does it. I'm going to see Barbie and maybe I'll share my popcorn with a demon or two that amuse me.
Do you think Barbie can write its wrongs?
Well, I think that's the aim that has been gone in with for this film, either genuinely or cynically, because that's the mood of the time now and they want to get back into popularity. But it was interesting. I didn't realise this. But the film was originally marketed with a tagline that said, if you hate Barbie, this is the film for you. And it really made me think of that scene in Elvis, where they have that I love Elvis badgers and that I hate Elvis badgers and the manager was saying we want everyone's money. So you know, we're not just going to go for the people who love Barbie if we can go for the people who hate Barbie as well, we can get both sides of the coin. I thought that was a really interesting approach. It's like they've gone in knowing that there's already some criticism towards Barbie and they're trying to re spin it, I suppose.
Yeah, and I've seen a lot of that like you said with the sort of American conservatives saying they're gonna go and hate watch Barbie. And then right rants about it. Or make rants about it on YouTube.
Mattel are enjoying that money either way, they don't give a shit. So you're just feeding into it. To be honest. What's really interesting is I think they went in knowing that they'd have to respond to this sort of history of feminist criticism. And they wanted to address it sort of head on almost like head it off. But this production has gone through a lot of ups and downs. So it's been in the works for quite a lot of years and read Finally, they had Diablo Cody as the original writer who was the writer of Juno. And she's she's, I think she's won an Oscar. And she said, when I was first hired for this in 2014, taking the skinny blonde, white doll and making her into a heroine was a tall order. I didn't really have the freedom then to write something that was faithful to the iconography. They wanted a girl boss feminist twist on Barbie, and I couldn't figure it out, because that's not what Barbie is. They went through another iteration with Amy Schumer, who was supposed to be writing and starring in it and I think I'm not a huge Amy Schumer fan, but it would have been interesting to see a regular Barbie if you know what I mean. But she left the production because of creative differences as well.
The Amy Schumer version was going to feature her being sort of kicked out of Barbie well, because she wasn't pretty enough, which I actually found quite funny.
Now, I think I could have gotten on board with that, because I feel like they'd be taking the piss out of it, but in a way that I could actually get behind the character. And I do love Margot Robbie, but it's like they were trying to do that but without, but also not do it at the same time. And it was very conflicting. And so the problem that they had with this existing feminist backlash, Carol Hey, Professor of feminist philosophy, she's she said, I think Barbie has long functioned as a proxy unto which cultural aspirations and anxieties about womanhood are projected. Like many feminists, I came to believe that being taken seriously as a woman meant rejecting pretty much everything that Barbie stood for. But then she actually goes on to say that she's reconsidered and she says the hyperbolic femininity of Margot Robbie's portrayal of the iconic doll strikes me as tantalisingly closer to queer camp, than it's anything that's supposed to be taken as a sincere role model. That's interesting. Yeah. And Helen O'Hara from stylists said it's not a feminist Utopia because that would be more equal but a hilarious up ending of our own reality. And where I'm left with it is that I feel quite conflicted. Has it changed my opinion of Barbie? I'm not sure. I don't have any children. I probably won't. But if I had a daughter, would I buy her a Barbie doll? No, probably not. It's hard. You don't want him to be left out? If that's what everyone's got at the time. But I would try so hard not to get her one because it really just sits wrong. I wish they had made that body shop one that would have been lovely or one that has more of a girl's body like you're talking about normally that would that would appeal to me a lot more.
Did you have a Barbie when you're growing up?
Um, you know, it all merges. I definitely had them. But I think some was Cindy's rather than Barbies. I think I did have some Barbies, but more of the Cyndi's, but not a huge amount. I didn't have any of the accessories like I remember a friend who had the like Malibu beach house Playhouse thing and I was like oh, but my mom would never have got the car or the house or would have been way too expensive. I had to put them in upturn stalls and use that those as the make believe car so that's how about you?
I was I was really into Barbie at one point and like you they were very expensive, very coveted in the 80s actually, like almost like a collector's item, not just a toy because I never forget on my eighth birthday, I got a peaches and cream one. Oh, what a day, opening up and seeing that present light in all her sparkly, peachy, creamy glory. And I still feel like a bit of a heart ache when I think about how beautiful she was. And just as like, oh, and then you just sort of play with her. And I think that if I was playing with her for like, two years or just Barbies in general, and I kind of got the other kind of glittery sparkly Barbies in the 80s. And then she did end up kind of being given down to my sisters and they always like would butcher her and things. I don't know why. Maybe they just hated my Barbies. Do you know, I think there's a weird thing going on with sisters and Barbies. Well, you
don't want to hand me down.
Often I'd find my Barbies two years later buried in the garden, you know, like just the head sticking out. You know?
Yeah, yeah. But it is weird because maybe I was a weird kid. But the best toy gifts I got growing up with things like I got a an actual child's proper toolkit when I was five, no four. I got this miniature plastic potter's wheel that actually worked. So you could do make your own pottery. But on a just a sort of small scale plastic one. And yeah, things like and then I had a lot of chemistry and science. So that was more of the direction that I mean, I had a full scale dressing up box and you know, tiaras and shit to like. Yeah,
dressing up box. I mean, that's the thing when I was reminiscing about playing when I was younger, because you know, the theme I saw the film is like, imagine what you could be growing up and it's like, well, I used to just be in the dressing up box thinking that I was George Michael in a wham Yeah, video no with the big T shirt that said yes. The tiara and the ballet dresses and do more physical dance routines and playing type of Yeah, yeah, if I did that we were the Goonies.
Yeah. I mean, I grew up on a farm so we did a lot of like playing in the pond area, doing you know, fake cooking with mud running around outside much more of that, I think. Yeah,
it was interesting because I asked our listeners if they play with Barbie and had Barbies and what the relationship to Barbie was and a lot of people said and I forgotten about Cindy, because I had a Cindy and Cindy because my mom was like I can't afford Barbie you're gonna get a Cindy and then I just be crying my eyes out because I didn't like her face. It's actually not Barbie. She looks awful like this compared to a lot of our listeners said yeah you know what I was overruled not allowed to have a Barbie is too expensive to adult bodied the Barbie was and then some said that we you know, I was a bit of a tomboy so I don't really didn't care for her. And someone said they liked Cindy more. But Barbie had all the cute outfits, which is really hard, I think for Cindy to keep up with right? Yeah. Well, Cindy, I know. But Cindy was British. I actually wonder what happened to Cindy What if she's gonna have a revival. And someone's that Barbie is like the American West Coast beauty. But Cindy is much more of your aspirational friend who lives next door. I was always very aware when I was a little girl that Barbie had a very adult body with big boobs and I didn't. So like I said, I would adore her for a while, played dress up and all this stuff. But I think a big part of it is I've read a lot about and I also asked our listeners what they have done to Barbie over the years because I think I can't be the only one. Like they have this ongoing joke in the film also about Barbies that get a bit abused, but I need her Haha, just to see, withstand some things like and still be beautiful and still be poised because there's part of me that was rebelling against the perfection and just the fineness. And other people also said that they kind of did experiments on her like one said, I use crimpers on her hair, but it melted on the plates. I was devastated. So that's more of an accident. This is a bit worse. I pulled her head off, because she wasn't standing straight by Bobby. And then zap ahead. Okay, someone else said that I'd make her do house chores while waiting for Ken to get back from work. Which is like, I think yeah, that's a pretty awful thing to do to your Barbie. And then I think I relate to this one. Also, my friend's Barbie came apart in the middle and was held together with sticky tape, which she saw in the middle like, you know when like magician, like do they really saw them in half?
Well, it's interesting because I burned her hair. And I don't know if you've ever smelled her burning it is it stays with you. But I don't think I can't remember whether I did it on purpose. I know that I think I accidentally put it on a heater and it singed it. And then I was like, Well, that's an interesting thing. And then I think I did more to see how it work. And you know, it's interesting when you say about this body, in the Sangha towards the body. What I really liked much more was and I can't remember what they were called. But it was basically like, almost a life size head and shoulders. Yes. And you could do the hair and you could do the makeup. I love that aspect. Yeah, but I was almost happy it didn't have a body I didn't want to deal with the body. I wanted to do the hair and makeup. So I think that's interesting. And I wonder how much that role about body image and stuff plays in that.
Yeah, I do like what one of our listeners said that Barbie made me want to be a decorative stay at home wife which I feel ultimately for me Barbie is still stuck in that she has to be aesthetically beautiful. She's the main character in the film that main energy and she's not like the never gonna like have like lawyer Barbie as the lead character. No,
no, but I think I would want that more if they could give her a better character.
But just a side note just to say when they showed curvy Barbie in a focus group two young girls as young as six, and they were used to playing with normal Barbie. They said things like and it really alarmed the researchers they called her. They threw her across the room and said she's fat. I don't want to play with her. And they were really disturbed by that. And they knew they had trouble marketing. The plus sized curvy Barbie.
And the curvy Barbie wasn't big. It was a size eight we said
yeah already trained on the silhouette of Barbie normal sized Barbie so they were Yeah. So yeah, I think we've covered a lot about Barbie. Yes. What are our final thoughts?
Well, you know, the current Barbie trends and they've called it Barbie core and Barbie mania. And it's filtered down into fashion and everything it seems to be everywhere at the moment, but and it's been described as a cultural phenomenon. And it does seem to be everywhere. Definitely. But I have to be honest, I'm a bit confused about the appeal myself. I do understand that after the last few years, we're all craving something light and uplifting. And I loved Legally Blonde. In a way, I'd like a bit more of that. But it's hard to actually tell how genuinely popular it is, or whether we've all sort of been collectively brainwashed into believing the hype. And there is certainly a lot of hype. I think we can all agree on that. I haven't seen this much large scale marketing since. I mean, I can't really remember that last time I saw something with this saturation of of marketing. It's hard to really just enjoy it for what it is when the corporate stamp of Mattel is so omnipresent. I mean, they're even in the film as a character as a as a plot point. So it's just you can't escape from it. And maybe I'm just a bit too cynical, but it does feel like a massive push to cash in rebrand, fight off Disney princesses and regain their position in the market. That said, there were some really fun moments and the production design was very impressive, but I don't see myself starting to wear pink anytime soon. So that's where I am. Yeah, I
agree with a lot of your points.
And I just want to leave you with this tweet I saw which I found quite amusing, which was I saw a little girl playing with a Barbie doll and an Action Man the other day. I said, Oh, I thought Barbie came with Ken. She said no Barbie comes with Action Man. She fakes it with Ken.
Thank you for joining us today. We look forward to seeing you in two weeks. We do. Thank you to our lovely producer Emily. If you enjoyed today's episode, please don't forget to leave a review and subscribe. It really does help us in reaching more people. You can also follow us on Instagram. Our handle is at s to TC podcast and find out more about the show get behind the scenes. Come and say hello. until then see you next time.
This podcast has been produced by Emily Crosby media