In the realm of Barbie movies, a tapestry of femininity, empowerment, and the male gaze unfolds. In 2023, the release of Greta Gerwig’s Barbie brought both critical acclaim and controversy, raising questions about Barbie's role as a feminist icon. The film showcased Barbieland, a candy-coloured, women-centred utopia where women, specifically Barbies, held positions of power while the Kens were portrayed as peripheral characters. However, as with Barbie's long history, the movie faced both praise for its feminist message and backlash from those who saw it as overly woke. In this blog post, we'll explore the profound impact of Barbie films, addressing the never-satisfactory beauty standards, contradictory expectations placed upon women, and how these movies grapple with Barbie's legacy as both an empowering icon and a perpetuator of unrealistic beauty ideals.
A Proto-Feminist Message
Barbie, created in the late 1950s by Ruth Handler, co-founder of Mattel, was initially based on the German doll Bild Lilli, which had a more sexualized image. However, Handler's intention for Barbie was different. She wanted to present a doll that inspired girls to pursue self-supporting careers and showcase their financial and sexual autonomy. From the outset, Barbie came equipped with career props, like a portfolio of fashion sketches, highlighting her aspirations beyond traditional gender roles.
The Paradox of Barbie's Image
Over the years, Barbie faced immense backlash for perpetuating unrealistic body image standards and gender stereotypes. Critics argued that her proportions were unattainable for real women and that playing with ultra-thin dolls could contribute to negative body image and eating disorders in children. Feminist groups protested her representation, accusing Mattel of promoting harmful gender norms.
However, as time passed, Barbie evolved to reflect changing societal values. In the 1980s, Mattel introduced the first Black and Latina Barbies, followed by a presidential Barbie in 1992. In 2016, new body types were introduced, including petite, curvy, and tall Barbies. Barbie's online store now features dolls modelled after inspirational female figures and individuals with disabilities, showcasing a more inclusive approach to beauty and femininity.
Barbie 2023: Empowerment Through Anger
The 2023 Barbie movie can be seen as an "angry" feminist film, although wrapped in stylized, campy aesthetics and vibrant pink colours. The movie's portrayal of Barbieland and its female-centric society confronts patriarchy and challenges traditional gender norms. This inversion offered a glimpse into a world where women take the lead, make important decisions, and create a supportive and empowering community. However, the film doesn't shy away from exploring the complexities of the male gaze. Barbie's image, particularly in the real world, has been subject to objectification and sexualization, a harsh reality that the movie confronts head-on. As Barbie and Ken venture into the real world, they encounter the stark contrast between Barbie Land's empowered society and the objectification Barbie faces. The film becomes a powerful commentary on how the male gaze can hinder women's empowerment and reinforce harmful gender norms.
In movie Barbie's real-world adventure, she confronts a disenchanted Mattel employee portrayed by the remarkable America Ferrera. Unhappy with Barbie's portrayal as an eternally perfect and untroubled woman, Ferrera's character experiments with designing Barbies that reflect the complexities of real women, including cellulite and thoughts of vulnerability. This revelation shatters Barbieland's idyllic utopia, forcing them to acknowledge the unrealistic standards women face daily. Ferrera's powerful speech delves into the contradictory expectations imposed upon women, perpetuating the notion that we must strike a delicate balance between beauty, likability, and servitude. Censored Cosmetics, like Barbie 2023, stands against these never-satisfactory standards, advocating for genuine self-expression and the liberation from unattainable ideals that hold us back as women. The movie's focus on empowerment and challenging the male gaze aligns with Censored Cosmetics' goal of promoting genuine self-expression and rejecting the idea of women existing solely for the pleasure of others.
Over the years, Barbie has evolved from a controversial figure to a symbol of inclusion and empowerment, reflecting the changing landscape of feminism and societal values. As Censored Cosmetics continues its journey to challenge beauty norms and empower women, the Barbie movies serve as a reminder of the importance of authenticity, empowerment, and pushing back against societal pressures. If you’re unfamiliar with our brand, its core lies in empowering all women to feel their very best, and embrace the labels society casts upon us. Our bold lipsticks are named for “bad” women whose stories have been retold with a specific narrative, designed to portray these women as the “Other” to man’s “Self”. We want to embrace the energy of a “Bad Stepmom”, our gorgeous deep red lipstick, and flirt lethally in “Honeypot”, our iconic red shade inspired by the female spies using their sexuality to entrap. Our “Eve” pink lipstick derives its name from the Original Sin that cast women into eternal damnation, balancing the sweetness of the mother of creation with the deception forever associated with her. Discover our other shades, and the stories behind them, on www.censoredcosmetics.com.
We believe in enhancing each woman’s natural beauty and want no part in the overly edited photos and posts of makeup brands past. All Censored Cosmetics models are “regular” kick ass women from a variety of professional backgrounds who provide a real, no filters, look at what it means to light up your mood with a lipstick alone. Our Instagram avoids filters, photoshop, and heavily edited content, not out of judgement to those who use such features, but simply because we believe no woman needs to be blurred or enhanced to look gorgeous. That beauty shines through in her eyes, her face, her actions. In the end, Barbie's enduring appeal lies in her ability to be a canvas for various interpretations, making her an ever-relevant and thought-provoking cultural icon. We at Censored are channelling this into how we hope our customers view our shades- open to interpretation, ever relevant, and thought provoking lipsticks.