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Everybody’s talking about Barbie

Written by Aké Kibona

The recently released ‘Barbie’ trailer has created a storm. Many were in awe and admiration of what the one-minute-fourteen teaser trailer provided. With the caption, “To live in Barbie Land is to be a perfect being in a perfect place. Unless you have a full-on existential crisis. Or you’re a Ken.” – Everyone is intrigued to see what the Barbie film is all about. Yet, the one thing that got everyone talking in the trailer was the foot moment.

Within seven seconds of the trailer, the most iconic shot is revealed. Barbie (played by Margot Robbie) steps out of her fluffy pink heels, and instead of dropping to the floor, her heels stay permanently arched. From a design perspective of the toys, the perfect downward slope allows each Barbie to slip into the perfect heels and the perfect arch has become a symbolic embodiment of the naïve view of what it is to be a woman. When I was a young girl, pretending to be all grown up, I would strut around the house, two inches taller, with my toes placed on the ground and my heels floating in the air. Within seven seconds, Greta Gerwig has already asserted that she understands what Barbie is all about.

Barbie has always been more than just a toy. As the narrator (Helen Mirren) states, “Since the beginning of time […] there have been dolls, but the dolls have always been baby dolls until [Barbie].” For over six decades, since their founding in 1959, Barbie dolls have always been a cultural icon. They were initially created to inspire generations of young girls to imagine and explore endless possibilities. Barbies were seen to reflect the idealised woman of the time. In the 1950s, this was: a white woman with blonde hair, a sharp jawline, and a petite nose, so Barbie mirrored this and more of what they considered the perfect features. It’s no wonder that Barbie’s impact on gender norms came with their controversies. Her flawless features and idealised body image promote unrealistic beauty standards and perpetuate harmful stereotypes. Hence, that plastic downward slope is a powerful image representing the stereotype that Barbie once created - the perfect woman with no flaws. The same stereotype that women still try to uphold.

Including this shot in the trailer makes us believe that Greta Gerwig is bound to address these issues surrounding femininity. And her previous films ‘Ladybird’ and ‘Little Women’ give us no reason to doubt that wouldn’t happen.

‘Barbie’ also has a jam-packed cast. Any rising star from the past five years can be found in this film. The characters are comprised of Barbies, Humans, and the lesser Barbies… Ken. Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling are the poster duo playing Barbie and Ken, but there are more Barbies and Kens. Issa Rae, Dua Lipa, Emma Mckay, and Nicola Coughlan are a few big names playing Barbies. Ncuti Gatwa, Simu Liu, and Scott Evans are playing Ken Dolls. Michael Cera is playing Alan. Other big British names are playing humans, including Connor Swindells and Jamie Demetriou. Their cast is packed with big names, but what could we expect from the writer-director duo Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig?

It's also great that the Barbie cast is diverse and feels more like a reflection of society today. In the original 1960s, Barbie did deal with issues surrounding the lack of diversity. Society was changing, and some argued that it did not change quickly enough, with the first Barbies of colour not introduced until 1980/81 with Barbie’s “Dolls of the World” collection. Therefore, the film needed not to skip out on ensuring a diverse cast.

But what is the film actually about?

No one really knows. There’s been much secrecy surrounding the new film. Most fans are glad about this because it creates greater anticipation and more curiosity, allowing people to come up with their own theories and ideas. Also, the mass following of the film, even with the lack of a plot, shows how influential Barbie has been and will be. So far, we’ve had two teaser trailers released. The first one didn’t reveal that much; it was more of an introduction to what Barbies are and Margot Robbie as Barbie. The second one introduced us to Barbie Land and the all-star cast. Barbie Land's atmosphere resembles “The Victory Project” in ‘Don’t Worry Darling’. There are a lot of bright colours, and everything’s pristine. Everything feels entirely plastic, which is in tune with the nature of Barbie dolls; however, there seems to be a cloud of tension. In the trailer, they show some animosity towards Ryan Gosling’s Ken, and I think Ken's treatment will play a big part in the film. They also show Barbie heading towards the real world, and since we know there are humans in the film, it will be fun to see how that interaction develops.

Even with the lack of information, fans are still picking out easter eggs planted throughout the trailer. The most prominent one surrounding “The Wizard of Oz”. The Trailer contains posters of key characters from “The Wizard of Oz”. This alongside Barbie in a Gingham dress, similar to Dorothy’s, makes us believe that we might see some mirroring in their stories. A girl on an adventure trying to search for someone else. And similar to Dorothy when she reaches the place she might find out it’s not all daisies as she previously imagined.

Since it’s a Greta Gerwig film, it will comment on femininity, gender, and society as a whole. Noah Baumbach is known for his witty yet intellectual writing, as seen in ‘Francis Ha’ and ‘White Noise’. Therefore, this film will be a comedy whilst subtly (or un-subtly) commenting on the world’s social realities.

Barbie comes out in cinemas on July 21st – I will definitely grab a ticket, will you?

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