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Come on, Barbie, Let’s Go Analyze the Rising Success of Female-Centric Entertainment

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 York U chapter.

The highest-grossing film of 2023 (so far). Box office records broken worldwide. An overwhelming cultural impact. If you’re Mattel, you’ll see these as reasons to create a toy cinematic universe. For those not blinded by corporate interest, these are reasons to create more movies about women by women.

While Barbie is far from the first film written, produced and starred in by women, its unapologetically feminine theme and storyline around uniquely gendered subject matter suggests a new era for entertainment. We are no longer concerned with the patriarchal formula that dictates the portrayal of most female characters and entertainers. This formula usually categorizes women as objects of male pleasure or forces female characters and entertainers to align themselves with masculinity to be accepted. 

margot robbie in a barbie movie
Warner Bros

For those who haven’t seen Barbie, here’s a quick summary: Barbie lives in Barbie Land, a utopia where life is plastic and fantastic until she starts thinking about dying (we all did this with our dolls, right?). This disrupts her perfect life, forcing her to discover the real world with Ken at her side. Barbie learns life is not so perfect and begins to doubt her value. Meanwhile, Ken tries to install the patriarchy in Barbie Land (yes, you read that right). Order is eventually restored to Barbie Land, and Barbie, unable to return to her innocence, embarks on a new life in the real world with the help of the mother-daughter duo Gloria and Sasha, finally accepting her beautifully flawed self. 

While at face value, Barbie may seem like a silly story about dolls, it goes far deeper than that. This loss of innocence and confidence resembles a journey many girls face embarking on adulthood. The unrealistic expectations placed on girls the moment we start to resemble women is something we all can — but shouldn’t have to — find relatable. Women everywhere breathed a collective sigh of relief when Gloria delivered a powerful, righteously angry monologue detailing how women everywhere are squandered by a society that criticizes our every move. 

HARI NEF as Barbie, ALEXANDRA SHIPP as Barbie, SHARON ROONEY as Barbie, ANA CRUZ KAYNE as Barbie and EMMA MACKEY as Barbie in Warner Bros. Pictures’ “BARBIE,”
Warner Bros

Of course, Barbie is not the first nor the only source of entertainment to reject the misogynistic formula that we have become so accustomed to. There is a reason Gilmore Girls remains one of Netflix’s most streamed shows despite being off the air since 2007. It is also not to say that boldly feminine entertainment is a new phenomenon. What is new is the culture that embraces such entertainment.

2023 has seen women empowered by media like never before. Influencers, musicians, and filmmakers feel significantly less pressure to conform to the standards of the male-dominated entertainment industry. We are leaning into the qualities we were once shamed for. The “bimbo” caricature, for example, has often been used to represent women as unintelligent and superficial. Now, women are leaning into the image to prove intelligence and femininity co-exist. Thanks, Bimbo University

barbie movie behind the scenes 0002?width=1024&height=1024&fit=cover&auto=webp

That is not to say feminism has no more work to do. We must acknowledge that white women are the primary beneficiaries of such efforts — and we cannot be equal until we are ALL equal. Still, the fact that women are becoming more themselves without considering the male gaze is a step in the right direction. Far behind us are the days when women — and some men — were embarrassed by their femininity. Women have the power to dominate the entertainment scene, and we don’t need the patriarchy’s permission to do it. We hold the majority of economic buying power and are putting it to good use. 

Chance Garratt-Dahan is a part-time writer at Her Campus at York University. She writes about topics concerning students such as entertainment and academics. Chance is a second-year philosophy student with a minor in political science at York University. In her free time, Chance enjoys reading fantasy novels, watching stand-up comedy, and caring for her two dogs.