Gage Skidmore. Wikimedia Commons.
It's official: Margot Robbie will star in and produce the new live-action Barbie movie. And while I am excited as ever to see another woman behind the camera (because we could really use a boost in those stats), I can't help but be disappointed with the choice to have Margot star as the iconic cultural character.
You're probably thinking something along the lines of: "But why? She's the perfect Barbie." Yeah. She's got the blonde hair and the blue eyes and the big smile and the freakishly long and beautiful limbs. And that's exactly why she's an bad choice for the role.
Barbie has always been an American standard of beauty. When she was first created in the 1950's, it was well engrained in society that beauty meant being white, thin, and overtly feminine. Thankfully, over the last few years, Barbie has been powerfully reimagined as the "everyday woman" — allowing this cultural touchstone to recognize the beauty of everyone. Barbie's been made petite, tall, with hips, with afros, with disabilities and with every career imaginable.
But still, due to the sticking power of white supremacy and other power structures at play in the United States, these Barbies have been thought of as 'Barbie 2.0.' They're not Barbie Barbie. They're her friends, or her look-a-likes. Barbie is blonde and thin and tall.
By casting Margot Robbie in the highly anticipated Barbie movie, the movie's production team has really missed out on the opportunity to solidify that Barbie Barbie — not just the character, but what beauty standard the character represents — has changed for real.
The Barbie movie could've equated a woman of color, a curvy woman, or a woman with disabilities with Barbie Barbie. It could've given major visibility to a type of woman underrepresented in movies, while asserting she was the first choice, not the 2.0. It could've stood behind the idea that Barbie (and by extension, beauty) is really every woman, instead of an anatomically impossible ideal. But instead, they cast an easy choice.
And it was that: an easy choice. Margot is an amazing actress, with the range to do any acting project ever (probably). This isn't to take that away from her or her talent. It's to ask: what women weren't considered for this role because Barbie and what she stands for is so engrained in us? And what will it take to make 'Barbie 2.0'... Barbie? When will women of color stop being the sidekick? When will plus-sized women stop being the 'funny fat friend'? And most importantly, when will we stop pretending that saying white women who look like Margot Robbie can be astronauts AND princesses is enough to change the world?
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