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Justice for Midge: A Critique on Gerwig’s Barbie Movie

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at SPU chapter.

Greta Gerwig’s Barbie is unquestionably the movie of the year, raking in nearly $1.5 billion in box office sales. The genius marketing with Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer and the star-studded cast created high expectations for the film. I think the film delivered a thought-provoking and existential commentary on the female experience and toxic masculinity. The film made me laugh and it made me cry… multiple times. While I could fill this article with pages of praise for the film, there is one thing I think Gerwig dropped the ball on. I think she did Midge, the pregnant Barbie, dirty. 

For those who haven’t seen the film, or can’t remember, Midge is the pregnant Barbie that is played by Emerald Fennell. She has barely any screen time and only has a few lines saying hi to Barbie. Midge is one of the discontinued dolls and is grouped with the misfits in Barbie Land. However, she lives on the edge of Barbie Land society and doesn’t even make it into Weird Babrie’s house for the misfit dolls.

But first, here’s some history on the doll. Midge came out in the 60s as a less ‘sexy’ doll who was Barbie’s best friend for children to play with. She was a redhead with freckles and had less eye makeup than Barbie but otherwise virtually looked the same. The original doll was not pregnant. Then she came back in the 80s with a slightly different look but still no baby belly. Her doll married Allan in the 90s (Barbie and Ken were the maid of honor and best man of course). It wasn’t until 2002 that the doll ‘got pregnant’, receiving huge backlash from parents saying it glorified teen pregnancy. 

 I can understand how a pregnant doll might make some parents uncomfortable because it might lead to conversations about how babies are made that they don’t want their kid to have on a playdate. However, I think the movie failed at elevating motherhood and particularly being pregnant as an empowering and positive choice for a woman to make. I do want to acknowledge that pregnancy is not always a positive experience for people. Labeling pregnancy as “weird” however is not empowering for any pregnant person. Whatever your opinion is on Barbie dolls in terms of whether or not they’re a good toy for kids to grow up playing with, I think it is strange how some people were offended by this doll because ‘it glorified teen pregnancy.’ Isn’t Midge supposed to be married to Allan and an adult according to Barbie lore? But that’s beside the point because surely she would be redeemed in the movie, right?

Wrong. Instead of Gerwig taking the opportunity to promote body positivity for pregnant women, and highlight how motherhood shouldn’t be something women feel like they’re giving up power to do, Midge is never given a redeeming moment. Even Kate McKinnon’s weird Barbie is welcomed back into society. Barbie even apologizes for excluding her and calling her “Weird Barbie.” Similarly, other misfit dolls are given short on-screen moments of reconciliation so to speak, however brief and in the background. Why couldn’t Midge be included? Instead, Midge is left alone in her house and given pitiful and judgemental glances by everyone who passes her humans and Babies alike. 

If this movie was supposed to be a commentary on the female experience, why weren’t pregnant women also included in that narrative? Is it strange to have a pregnant doll? Maybe, but also not really. Pregnancy is part of the human experience. Why is Midge too weird? Why couldn’t Gerwig have given the doll the shortest on-screen moment of inclusion? It would have fit right into America Ferrera’s famous monologue where she says, “You’re supposed to love being a mother, but don’t talk about your kids all the damn time”. The thing is Gerwig didn’t shy away from the infamous dilemma women face about having a career or a family. But she did utterly shy away from depicting pregnancy as a positive experience.

Perhaps Gerwig saw the inclusion of Midge purely as a nod to Barbie lore rather than another way to push her message about being a woman in today’s world. I still think it was a missed opportunity that hurt the pro-women message of the movie. 

Haley Blain is the President of Her Campus SPU! She joined Her Campus as a freshman and has thoroughly enjoyed the community. She is in charge of overseeing the direction of the club’s content and is responsible for being a correspondent to the HCHQ. She is currently a junior at SPU double majoring in Global Development and Economics. She lived in Shanghai, China for six and a half years. This influenced her decision to major in Global Development. Her writing experience includes writing for Her Campus since her freshman year, writing for the Falcon (SPU’s campus newspaper), and Bethany Community Church. At BCC, she created and wrote her own handbook for their missions department evaluating partnerships between the church and non-profits. It’s pretty obvious that Haley loves writing. She also enjoys reading, hiking, CrossFit, and dance. She is an avid music listener and likes to stream on KSPU (SPU’s radio station) with custom playlists that have new themes each week. This bio would not be complete without addressing her deep love for Taylor Swift’s music. Concerts are some of her favorite events to attend. Some highlights include Taylor Swift (Rep & Eras), Greta Van Fleet, and Alicia Keys.