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Are We Living in a Barbie World?

Aqua's pop anthem 'Barbie Girl' will not be appearing in the upcoming Barbie movie due to a troubled legal history over the song. Yet, the lyrics "I'm a Barbie girl, in the Barbie world. Life in plastic, it's fantastic." do beg the question "Are we living in a Barbie world?". For a long time, the popular Barbie doll toy has served as an impossible ideal for girls worshipping ...sorry "playing" with these elven figures in their many variations. The idea of having the perfect figure, living the perfect life and embracing materialism in all its shapes and forms does have a distinctly plastic feel.


These plastic ideals have gone a long way to sustaining celebrity culture and keeping consumers perpetually dissatisfied, making Barbie a major influence of kids in their developmental years. While people may not look back at their childhood and blame poor Barbie for their pink car, this mainstream culture is instilled at a time when kids are still establishing real world understanding and a value system. Owning a Barbie can be passed off as fanciful playtime, a chance to use one's imagination or a way to get your kids off your back. Yet, just as the thinking that pink is for girls and blue is for boys, surely the same type of indoctrination is carried by Barbie?

While we may not be willing to assess the degree of influence, it's easy to acknowledge this is at least possibly true. Why wouldn't toy manufacturers want to get kids hooked on their products and bait adults into becoming brand loyal to a fault? This is how to create an empire. It happened with Lego to the point that they've taken their pop culture dominance to the next level with The Lego Movie. Not only does the film "adaptation" serve as a feature-length advert, it's helluva entertaining too! A Lego fever dream of sorts, it effectively showcases the legendary toy brand's entire showroom to its target audience and knows the power of replayability.

This is what makes Greta Gerwig's Barbie adaptation so curious. There have been numerous Barbie movies over the years, toting the Barbie brand and using animation to create their Barbie world with many themes. So what's prompted a live-action Barbie film? Well, the casting of Bombshell's "Anchor Barbie" Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling (the only choice for Ken) certainly speaks to the direction of this movie in spite of its artifice. Both considered to be eye candy and real film talents, Gerwig is clearly trying to add substance to this adaptation, which isn't aimed at kiddies but at anyone with a hint of nostalgia around the brand.

Nominated for 3 Oscars, Gerwig has become a director to watch after the critically-acclaimed films Lady Bird and Little Women. Her unconventional approach makes her films promising and her aura as an indie actor adds further dimension. So, while this breakaway movie could be her reaction to being passed over at the Academy Awards, Gerwig isn't the kind of artist to deliver substandard material. Taking on this long-running project has created a great deal of buzz and helped attract big name actors who have bought into the vision, which has evolved many times since its first conception in 2009.

The upcoming adventure fantasy comedy romance's IMDb plot line is "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." and Google's byline is "After being expelled from Barbieland for being a less than perfect-looking doll, Barbie sets off for the human world to find true happiness.". This already speaks to a much more meta type approach to Barbie with a lead actor who could just have easily played Tank Girl after her iconic turn as Harley Quinn. Going a step further, there's even cross-pollination with Will Ferrell cast as Mattel's CEO, creating a bridge to his involvement in The Lego Movie. Breaking the concept of a Barbie and Ken into men and women, one expects Gerwig will be offering a low-key social commentary with some fun gender politics thrown in for good measure.

So it appears that Gerwig will be making some clever parallels between today's real world and the lofty ideals of Barbie world. Now that the second teaser trailer for Barbie has been released to the tune of The Beach Boys, audiences will have a much better idea of what to expect from the much-anticipated and newsworthy movie. Using the classic '90s font for Barbie with a '50s Pleasantville vibration, it's clear they're pressing the nostalgia button hard. One has to imagine Mattel have had a firm grip on the concept and creation through its stages, so hopefully this brand exercise hasn't curtailed Gerwig's creative control. Having been in the pipeline since 2009 with multiple studio transitions and directors involved, it's finally going to see the light of day. Now some 14 years later, one has to wonder what kind of Barbie world the toy manufacturer originally envisaged and just how happy they are with the final product.