The feminist icon in Greta Gerwig’s Barbieland possesses all the hallmarks of the quintessential Barbie that led to the doll’s rejection by aggressive activists, to begin with. Blonde hair, busty boobs, and big hips earned the tight-waisted actress Margot Robbie the lead role of “stereotypical Barbie” in the pink-tinted fairytale of Hollywood’s latest blockbuster, cast as both a villain and a heroine.
The movie debuted with an explicit message about body image, female expectations, and conventional beauty standards. In the words of Federalist Contributor Rich Cromwell, “Barbie” delivered “more lectures than laughs.”
Barbie herself, presented as an unrealistic version of a 1950s housewife, lives in a female-dominated fantasyland complete with the neighbors of a diverse California utopia featuring all the identities on the victimized hierarchy. Barbie’s black, Barbie’s trans, Barbie’s Asian, weird, and even disabled. Of course, Barbie’s also plus-size. But for their male partners in paradise, diversity was an afterthought.
Plus-size Ken had no place in Barbieland. And the Kens who did were mocked by their female counterparts as ultra-narcissistic for their commitment to fitness. Stereotypical Ken himself, played by Ryan Gosling with washboard abs, was only happy when validated by Barbie.
In her lecture on how much she hates being a woman, America Ferrera’s character condemns female body standards enshrined in the Barbie of 1959.
“You have to be thin, but not too thin,” she complains at the top of her monologue. “And you can never say you want to be thin. You have to say you want to be healthy, but also, you have to be thin.”
Vilifying those who care about their health, meanwhile, is just blatant pro-fat activism.
Maybe the film isn’t for the boys. After all, the Barbie franchise always catered to little girls. But if the movie’s creators cared to get their message across to those they vilified most, the casting directors might have been wise to practice the inclusion they preach, especially when such decisions go to the core of the message.
On the one hand, it’s exhausting to engage in the leftist-styled commentary that flags the one identity group left out of the conversation on a particular topic. On the other, it’s worth mentioning that the toxic concept of “body positivity” always seems to go one way, to the detriment of women, especially for a film that engages in such victim-style activism, to begin with. It’s never fat guys who end up on the cover of men’s health magazines.
The message we’re left with is that it’s ok when women project their own so-called unrealistic body expectations on men, but the men better not dare reciprocate. And if Barbie were truly representative of our neighbors, almost everyone would have been “plus size.” That’s actually a problem.