Why Barbie Isn’t The Hero We Need In 2019
Surely it's time to bin the unrealistic beauty standards
Of all the things we thought 2019 might bring us, a live-action adaption of Barbie isn’t something that even crossed our minds as a possibility.
The Mattel doll has a sixty year legacy of controversy and recent attempts to drag it into the 21st century have all stumbled at the first hurdle. In an era of #TimesUp, #EffYourBeautyStandards, and #EverydaySexism, it isn’t hard to see why Barbie would be a divisive character.
She represents an ideal that only grown adults can fully understand is bogus and that young girls spend countless damaging years trying to emulate only to find that it’s literally physically impossible to do so.
Her measurements in the real world translate to a 39in bust, an 18in waist, 33in hips and a size three shoe and her estimated human weight of 110lbs would, at the height of 5ft 9in, put her firmly in the anorexic category.
Even so, impressionable children around the world look to her as the pinnacle of beauty; a blonde, white woman whose very feet are designed to look good in a high heel and whose sequence of “professional” outfits are arguably more about fashion than actual brains.
Margot Robbie – who will be playing the lead role in the film – has claimed that the doll “promotes confidence, curiosity and communication throughout a child’s journey to self-discovery” but does dropping those buzzwords really make it so?
To their credit, Mattel have attempted to introduce a range of Barbie dolls with different skin tones, body types, and foot shapes, but the everlasting and most enduring image of the doll remains the original and most problematic version.
An insider has claimed that the movie will address some of the negative attitudes about Barbie and will even attempt to reframe her in a feminist light. The character has been described as having “distinctly untraditional views” despite her “traditional” appearance.
What’s interesting about the production is that Amy Schumer was initially on board to portray the icon in what would’ve marked a huge win for body positivity. Instead, the movie will play it safe with an on-the-nose portrayal of Barbie in her most famous and much maligned form.
We can’t help but feel that the studios have missed a trick on this by overlooking an opportunity to come through with a diverse and body-positive reflection of a character that plenty of people have grown up having mixed feelings about.
After all, life in plastic isn’t always fantastic and young girls who are already being exposed to photoshopped and so-called “flawless” bodies on their Instagram feed don’t need another idol who promotes unhealthy and unachievable beauty standards.