Monday, August 21, 2023

Barbie: The Movie and the Doll

Victoria Pedraza | 8/7/2023

Like most girls raised since Barbie's debut in 1959, I played with Barbie. I remember spending forever setting up my own version of “Barbie Land,” using my mom’s furniture as various buildings around my little town. When I was all done with that… I was too tired actually to play with the doll. Now, two weeks after the Barbie movie’s release (though you’re reading this later), I have finally seen the movie.

The doll actually had a full name, Barbara Millicent Roberts, and throughout the years, Barbie has embraced various careers and roles, serving as an astronaut, doctor, teacher, athlete, and many others, inspiring young girls to dream big and break societal norms. She became a symbol of empowerment and representation as her diverse range of dolls began to showcase various ethnicities, body shapes, and professions. Barbie’s possibilities are endless.

Overview of the Plot and Characters in the Movie

Spoiler alert!

Alright, so. Barbie starts experiencing human-like things; she thinks about death, she has cellulite, and, horror of horrors, her heels are flat on the ground. So she gets sent to the real world, where she’s supposed to help the girl playing with her feel better. Ken goes along and finds that, unlike Barbie World, the real world is run by the patriarchy.

As for the characters, there’s Gloria and her daughter Sasha, Stereotypical Barbie and all the other Barbies, Blond Ken and all the other Kens, and the Mattel CEO and a bunch of personality-challenged executives who all love women because they all… have mothers.

Barbie Dolls

Over the decades, Barbie dolls have seen numerous iterations, each reflecting the fashion and cultural trends of their time. From the classic 1959 Barbie with her iconic black-and-white swimsuit to various career-themed Barbies that have inspired young minds to dream big, the doll's evolution has been a mirror of societal changes.

The latest Barbie doll design, tied to the movie's release, embodies a bold step forward in embracing diversity and empowering young minds. While staying true to the essence of Barbie, the new designs break away from some of the conventional beauty standards, embracing different body shapes, skin tones, and hairstyles. This approach celebrates uniqueness and promotes a positive body image message for young children.

Analysis of the Marketing Campaign for the Movie

The marketing campaign for the Barbie movie and the accompanying doll launch has been nothing short of a spectacle. Mattel, in collaboration with the film's production team and marketing experts, orchestrated a multi-faceted strategy to generate buzz and anticipation among audiences of all ages.

Mattel leveraged the power of social media platforms to its advantage, creating dedicated pages for the movie and the new Barbie doll. Engaging content, including behind-the-scenes footage, interviews with the creative team, and interactive challenges, kept the conversation alive and encouraged user-generated content from enthusiastic fans.

For people who cherished their childhood memories with Barbie, the marketing campaign tapped into nostalgia, evoking sentimental value. The reimagined doll design, embracing diversity and inclusion, resonated with this audience, aligning with contemporary values.

Evaluation of the Effectiveness of the Marketing Strategy

The marketing strategy for the Barbie movie and the new doll has been undeniably effective, evident from the overwhelming response it received. The trailers, social media content, and influencer partnerships generated significant engagement and organic buzz. The #BarbieMovie trended globally, and fan theories and discussions flooded various platforms, amplifying the campaign's reach.

The new Barbie doll design received record-breaking pre-orders, surpassing the company's expectations. Combining an innovative doll design, in line with contemporary values, and tie-ins to the movie created a powerful appeal for collectors and children. The biggest achievement by the marketing team was, in my opinion, the way the fans took over. From fans' theories and reviews to going to the movies dressed in pink.

The Doll and Movie from a Feminist Viewpoint

As the narrative unfolds, we see the contrasting world of the Barbies and Kens, who represent societal norms and stereotypes around gender roles. The stereotypical Barbie epitomizes the pressures placed on women to conform to unrealistic beauty standards and traditional gender expectations. On the other hand, the weird Barbie embodies the struggle to find one's identity and self-worth in a world that often rejects uniqueness and individuality.

Blond Ken, the epitome of conventional male attractiveness and charm, experiences his own journey of self-discovery. He realizes that being confined to societal expectations limits his growth as an individual and prevents him from forming meaningful connections with others beyond superficiality.

As the characters' paths intertwine, the movie explores how sexism not only affects women but also breeds resentment and unhappiness among men who are trapped in stereotypical roles. The underlying message becomes evident: gender equality is not just about empowering women, but also about liberating men from rigid societal expectations, allowing everyone to pursue their true passions and potential.

As for America Ferrera’s monologue, I will not delve into it now. It deserves its own post and I could not do it justice here.

Barbie as a doll has faced criticism and controversy regarding her aesthetic representation. Critics argue that Barbie's traditionally slender figure, long legs, and tiny waist contribute to unrealistic beauty standards and perpetuate harmful body image ideals. Some have also expressed concerns about the lack of body diversity in earlier Barbie dolls, claiming that it can lead to body dissatisfaction among young girls. 

In response to these concerns, Mattel has taken steps to address the issue. The new Barbie doll design tied to the movie's release marks a notable departure from the classic mold, introducing dolls with various body shapes, skin tones, and hairstyles. By promoting inclusivity and embracing different forms of beauty, Mattel aims to counteract the negative impact of earlier Barbie depictions.

Discussion of the Impact of Barbie on Young Girls' Self-Image

The influence of Barbie on young girls' self-image has been a subject of extensive research and debate. Some studies suggest that exposure to Barbie and her aspirational lifestyle can have an impact on body image perception and career aspirations among girls. As Barbie has often been associated with glamour and beauty, some critics argue that young girls may internalize unrealistic beauty standards and develop a skewed perception of their bodies.

On the other hand, proponents of Barbie contend that the doll can be a source of empowerment and inspiration for young girls. Barbie's vast range of careers, from scientist to CEO, can expose girls to a variety of potential paths and encourage them to dream big. Additionally, Barbie's adventurous spirit and resilience in the face of challenges can serve as positive role models for girls, promoting qualities like determination and courage.

Ultimately, the impact of Barbie on young girls' self-image can vary widely based on individual experiences, parental guidance, and exposure to diverse representations of femininity and success. Like anything else, the doll isn't intrinsically tied to a moral value; it's the individual experience that shapes girls into women.


By encouraging imaginative play, Barbie empowers girls to envision themselves as capable and confident individuals. Playing with Barbie can foster creativity and help young girls explore their aspirations and potential, instilling a belief in their ability to achieve their dreams.

Barbie's impact from a feminist viewpoint is multifaceted. While she has faced criticism for perpetuating beauty standards, her evolution over the years, coupled with her extensive career representation and imaginative play opportunities, has contributed positively to the empowerment of young girls. As Barbie continues to evolve and adapt to the changing cultural landscape, her role as a source of inspiration for generations of young girls remains significant.

Women's Agenda. (2023). What a Body Image Expert Really Thinks of the Barbie Movie. Women's Agenda. 
Glamour Magazine UK. (2023). Barbie: A Body-Positive Opinion. Glamour Magazine UK. 
[McManaman, Daisy]. (2023). Hyper-Femininity Can Be Subversive and Empowering: Just Ask Barbie. The Conversation. 

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