Barbie: Sorry, but Barbie has never been a heroine in my eyes - Christa Ackroyd

Much has been made that despite being the biggest box office film of last year grossing a billion dollars or more worldwide, Barbie, in all its fluffy pinkness has been ‘snubbed’ at the Oscars.

Associated Press called the lack of nominations particularly for its director and lead actress ‘one of the biggest shocks in recent history’ which just goes to prove Hollywood really is still living in la la land. Interesting maybe, but considering all that is going in in the world it’s not a major tragedy.

Of course it is hugely ironic that Ryan Gosling is one of only a handful of nominations the film received for his portrayal of Ken leading him to take to social media to proclaim ‘there is no Ken without Barbie’ and others using the snub as a metaphor for society that no matter what a girl does it’s always the boy who wins out.

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But I for one am glad the story, even a reimagined one, of a little plastic doll who comes to realise that all in life is not about being pretty in pink, won’t be walking away with the honour of being best picture. Barbie in my eyes was and always will be responsible for the start of a plastic culture of impossible expectations.

Margot Robbie attends The European Premiere Of "Barbie" at Cineworld Leicester Square on July 12, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Lia Toby/Getty Images for Warner Bros.)Margot Robbie attends The European Premiere Of "Barbie" at Cineworld Leicester Square on July 12, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Lia Toby/Getty Images for Warner Bros.)
Margot Robbie attends The European Premiere Of "Barbie" at Cineworld Leicester Square on July 12, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Lia Toby/Getty Images for Warner Bros.)

The birth of a little doll aimed at young pre pubescent girls did nothing but teach them how they should aspire to look and live their lives. She is and never will be a heroine in my eyes.

For absolute transparency I have never seen the film and have no intention of doing so largely because I still ask myself was there ever anything more commercially transparent than the creation of a womanly doll with her perfect body, her perfect life and a zillion expensive pieces of throwaway accessories? (It is no coincidence that medical intervention was dubbed ‘plastic surgery’ in my eyes.)

Barbie has always been the original marriage of consumerism meets cynical and, yes, dangerous manipulation of what young women should strive to be. Flawless, rich and dare I say it rather vacuous.

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And it’s true I would not normally comment on something I have never seen but here I make a stand. Millions of course did not feel as I did.

As I stood in the queue at the cinema to watch the epic, momentous, educational and thought provoking Oppenheimer, I was surrounded by women and young girls dressed head to toe in pink. I am sure they were not there to see a film shrouded in pink fluffy irony, a post feminist ‘masterpiece’ which the BBC described as a ‘funny, subversive cultural statement.. undermining stereotypes about women with mega-wit… wrapped in a buoyant candy coloured cloud’.

So forgive me if I seemingly underestimate the intelligence of the average cinema goer but can we really believe that it was to make a comment on women’s role in society that drew them to the movies shrouded in a rose tinted frenzy?

No they were there to see a film about the birth of plastic unrealistic commercialism that has served toy makers well ever since Barbie burst onto the scene in the late fifties as an homogenised version of who little girls aspire to be long before she became a gymnast, an astronaut, a world leader or even a horse rider.

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So let’s look at who Barbie was. She was in fact modelled on a German comic strip character depicted as a buxom woman who paid her way in life by seducing wealthy male suitors and later was reinvented as a German sex toy named Lilli marketed for men.

Mattel’s co founder Ruth Handler bought the rights for Lilli renamed her Barbie after her daughter and created a much more sanitised but never the less money making offering to the world. The only saving grace in my book is that Ken came second.

So excuse me getting on my high horse. Maybe it’s because I only had a Sindy, the British doll considered to be far more wholesome and less womanly than her stateside cousin and even she was remodelled to look more American in the seventies, though reverting in the early 2000s to a doll that looked more like the girls she was being marketed to.

In other words she lost the big breasts and the impossibly long legs. Good old Sindy, playing it real. All potentially was going well… until the Barbie film. Now it is she who is cast as the heroine again, no matter how smart she is this time, no matter what life lessons she learns and no matter how much the film centres on the theme of ‘patriarchy’.

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In my toy cupboard that little doll began generations of marketing impossible stereotypes to young girls which continues to this day. And I can never love her or anything she spawns as a result.

Girls as young as 12 are seeking anti aging creams and expensive body products have become ‘must’ buys. I was horrified to discover my own granddaughter aged exactly that, her with the perfect skin and natural rosy glow, had asked for a face toner costing more than £30 on her Christmas list.

Heaven knows what she will be demanding if she ever gets teenage spots. Sadly I suspect she is no different to many others like her who are being sold the myth that this or that product leads to perfection. Girls far too young are encouraged to ‘look after themselves’ and so before long they are saving up for ‘preventative’ Botox before a wrinkle is even a twinkle in the ad man’s eyes.

Take that one step further and it becomes so much more than persuading a young person that this or that injection or elixir is the secret to eternal youth. In the last couple of weeks we have heard about a girl who died having fallen ill on a plane returning from major cosmetic surgery in Turkey. Another from our region is now being treated in hospital after her nipples turned black and her skin started dying having travelled the same route. And no I will not castigate her for doing so.

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That will do nothing to make her feel better about herself. I can tell her and others like her they are young and beautiful just as they are, the fact is so many don’t believe that to be true. Photographs posted on social media are filtered beyond recognition.

Lips are inflated beyond recognition, eyelashes that look doll-like are added at considerable cost and inflated boobs are now seen as nothing out of the ordinary. And that saddens me. I have no objection in looking after yourself in later years, even having the odd tweak here and there.

But to be a teenager who believes they are ugly just because they don’t fit a commercial interpretation of how women should look is a whole other problem.

Of course the grief that body dysmorphia causes for so many cannot be laid entirely at the feet of a plastic doll. But no matter how much a film tries to rewrite Barbie’s story may I humbly suggest she started it. And if you don’t believe me I leave you with one interesting development in her story.

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The creation of curvy Barbie with her thicker thighs and more rounded stomach in 2016 was shrouded in secrecy and code named Project Dawn. But the dawn of a new era it was not.

Curvy Barbie is actually only a size 8 and is also the doll young girls are least likely to play with. I rest my case.

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