Unless you’ve been living under a giant pink rock for the past couple of months, you’ll have noticed the sheer level of hype surrounding the new Barbie movie. The campaign on the run up to its release has been something of a masterclass in marketing – from the teaser photos of Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling as a fluoro-clad Barbie and Ken rollerblading on Venice Beach, to the film’s star-studded soundtrack produced by Mark Ronson, to the quite literally hundreds of brand collabs and licensing deals signed with everyone from Zara to Airbnb.
Barbie has long been a divisive cultural figure; historically she’s been decried by feminists for promoting unhealthy body standards among young girls yet still remains the world’s top-selling doll. While nostalgia-fuelled reboots and adaptions are nothing new in the world of Hollywood, the sense of intrigue surrounding the Barbie movie lies mainly in the choice of Greta Gerwig as director. Best known for her debut film Lady Bird and her adaption of Little Women, Gerwig’s work has gained a cult following for its distinctly feminist slant – perhaps signalling a new direction of travel for the world’s most famous doll brand.
While the film’s plot has been shrouded in secrecy ahead of its release, Gerwig has revealed that the story is inspired by Barbie creator and Mattel co-founder Ruth Handler’s relationship with her own daughter Barbara, who she named Barbie after. Set in the seemingly perfect world of Barbie Land, where “all problems of feminism and equal rights have been solved,” according to the film’s narrator Helen Mirren, things quickly begin to go wrong for Barbie and she is forced to venture into the real world along with the ever-devoted Ken.