Up to now, Barbie producer Mattel has since expanded the model to incorporate greater than 175 dolls with various pores and skin varieties, hairstyles, and physique varieties, in addition to a doll with vitiligo, a doll with Down syndrome, dolls that use a wheelchair or a prosthetic limb, a doll with listening to aids, and a doll with out hair. And once I extra not too long ago discovered that Greta Gerwig could be directing the brand new Barbie film—and had plans to make use of the movie to handle the doll’s problematic previous and embrace Barbies of all sizes and styles, all by a feminist lens—I marked my calendar for July 21 and began planning my sizzling pink outfit for premiere day.
Quick-forward to a couple of month in the past, when Barbiemania emerged in full drive amid the film’s official press tour and normal cultural pleasure. It’s turn into unimaginable to go browsing to social media (or drive down any billboard-laden road or stroll right into a freaking Zara retailer) with out being bombarded with photographs of Barbie’s blonde hair, blue eyes, and skinny physique within the type of actor Margot Robbie, who’s taking part in the long-lasting doll within the movie. It didn’t take lengthy earlier than my work inbox started to flood with emails from magnificence manufacturers with merchandise that promised to make me (and, by proxy, any Effectively+Good reader) look as blonde, clean, and excellent as Barbie. The rhetoric introduced me proper again to feeling the identical method as I did once I was 10 years outdated and realized that I might by no means appear like that Barbie.
To be clear: I haven’t seen the film. From what I perceive, although, the sweetness trade’s commoditization of and messaging surrounding Barbiemania is in full opposition to the movie’s messaging, which reportedly rejects the notion that Barbie—in her basic type—is the head of female magnificence. “I don’t suppose you must say, ‘That is the one model of what Barbie is, and that’s what ladies ought to aspire to be and appear like and act like,’” Robbie not too long ago advised Time journal. “If [Mattel] hadn’t made that change to have a multiplicity of Barbies, I don’t suppose I might have wished to aim to make a Barbie movie.”
Although the movie options varied actors taking part in varied Barbies—Issa Rae as President Barbie, Sharon Rooney as Lawyer Barbie, Kate McKinnon as Gymnast Barbie—it’s Robbie’s “Stereotypical Barbie” (a moniker within the film meant to spotlight that the unique blonde Barbie should be most related to the toy however isn’t the one reputable one on the block) whose likeness we are able to’t escape. And sure segments of the sweetness trade have capitalized on the insecurity that the normal Barbie picture evokes to attempt to promote merchandise—fully lacking the purpose of the steps that the movie has tried to take ahead and, in impact, messing with our psychological well being.
When Barbie hit the cabinets 1959, she was the primary ever mass-produced grownup doll available on the market. Earlier than she got here round, child dolls that taught little women methods to be moms have been the one possibility. On the time, Barbie’s blonde hair, blue eyes, and itty-bitty waist represented the “best” girl. It wasn’t till 50 years later—in 2014!—that individuals caught on to the truth that it might be bodily unimaginable for a human to truly appear like her (her breast-to-waist ratio would trigger her to topple over, she’d should stroll on all fours, and he or she wouldn’t have the ability to maintain up her personal head).
However by then, the harm had already been achieved. A 2016 examine—which, coincidentally, got here out the identical 12 months that the body-inclusive Barbies have been launched—discovered that women aged 6 to eight who performed with Barbies have been extra more likely to expertise physique dissatisfaction than those that performed with what the analysis calls full-figured dolls. And now, the once-inanimate doll has come to life within the type of a dwelling, respiratory, human being.
Once more, although the movie itself and Robbie’s portrayal of Barbie reportedly goals to be progressive, within the lead-up to the premiere, the eye given to her resemblance of the unique iteration of the doll is unignorable. To no fault of Robbie’s, the fanfare related to the film has introduced the doll’s unimaginable magnificence requirements out of Barbieland and into the actual world, which has paved the best way for Barbiemania to mess with our heads in a wholly new method.
“When it’s only a plastic doll, we are able to have a look at the doll and say, ‘That’s made in a manufacturing facility, that’s not attainable. It’s 12 inches tall, its measurements are ridiculous, I couldn’t appear like that.’ Whereas we’d nonetheless really feel an emotional need to look excellent, we all know it’s a doll,” says Carla Marie Manly, PhD, creator of Pleasure From Worry. “Nonetheless, when Hollywood makes a human being into the doll, it’s not a human-to-doll comparability any longer—it’s human-to-human. Our brains don’t undergo the steps of pondering that it took excellent lighting, nice costuming, a whole crew, and plenty of hours of labor to realize that look. They instantly suppose, ‘If one other human appears to be like that good, I ought to have the ability to look that good, too.’”
Dr. Manly calls the phenomenon that this evokes “poisonous comparability,” which causes us to cease specializing in turning into the most effective variations of ourselves in favor of attempting to be like another person. “The minute we begin evaluating ourselves to another human being is the minute we go down the slippery slope of worsening our shallowness and our capacity to actually embrace self-love,” she says. “As a substitute of utilizing your power to evolve into a greater model of you, that power goes towards pondering ‘What can I purchase? What can I do to myself to appear like this different particular person?’ So that you’re inherently giving your self the message that you simply’re not adequate.”
Magnificence manufacturers have capitalized on Barbiemania in a method that feels… icky
As photographs of “Stereotypical Barbie” have turn into ubiquitous, many manufacturers have capitalized on the potential insecurities they create to gentle by providing services and products that can make you look extra like a basic Barbie.
Up to now week alone, I’ve acquired emails about “The Barbie Drug” (aka Melanotan, a nasal spray that makes you look tan and that docs completely advise in opposition to utilizing), a “Barbie Butt elevate,” a lip plumper to make you ”pout like Barbie,” and a slew of “final minute magnificence buys to show you into the Barbie of your desires.” A plastic surgeon on Lengthy Island is even providing a “Barbie Makeover”—full with a breast augmentation, liposuction, facial reconstruction, and no matter different customized beauty companies you could want to rework into Barbie—for $120,000. “If advertisers or the media can persuade us that we must be a sure sort of particular person, particularly one that’s unattainable, then they not solely have our consideration, however in addition they have our discretionary revenue,” says Dr. Manly. “The extra they’ll make us really feel as if we’re imperfect in damaging methods, the extra they’ve grabbed us for a lifetime of eager to be one thing that’s not solely unhealthy to realize, however unimaginable.” None of those services or products are associated to the film in any official capability—the movie’s precise magnificence partnerships (with manufacturers like NYX, OPI, and Kitsch) are cute, enjoyable, and overwhelmingly pink. However there’s a stark distinction between getting a #barbiecore manicure and fascinating in questionable beauty practices meant to make you appear like a doll.
“By most accounts, the brand new Barbie film shall be a feminist tackle the character, however the movie nonetheless embraces the look of an archetypal Barbie—along with her non-functional toes and tiny, flat, ski-slope nostril…I fear about reintroducing these beliefs, even within the context of a contemporary story,” says Dara Liotta, MD, a facial plastic surgeon in Manhattan. “Romancing Barbie will not be not good for [people’s] psychological well being,”
It’s time we transfer past the old-school model of Barbie magnificence
I really like—and have at all times liked—Barbie, and am genuinely excited to see how Robbie, Gerwig, and everybody else concerned within the undertaking will contribute to shifting her narrative onscreen. However for the entire feminist strides the movie guarantees to make, it’s an actual disappointment to see the sweetness world utilizing the chance as an excuse to hawk the identical drained magnificence requirements. Barbie herself has moved past—in a spaceship, on a bike, and in her iconic pink Corvette—so why can’t we?
And for these of us who are feeling insecure in our bodies that don’t match into the Stereotypical Barbie stage of perfection, bear in mind: “She’s factory-formed, and we’re human,” says Dr. Manly. “We need to have a good time and honor the distinctiveness of the bizarre human type, the on a regular basis fantastic thing about a girl who is aware of and loves and feels good about herself no matter her bodily look—who loves herself from the within out.”