The Barbie movie, with Margo Robbie, brought in a staggering $162 million during its opening weekend and has now crossed the $1 billion mark at the box office. Plenty of ink has already been spilled explaining the phenomenon. I barely paid attention…until my teenage daughter announced she wanted to see it.
We were passed the Barbie stage—or in her case, she’d never been in it. My teen daughter never owned a Barbie doll. I’d had a tub full. She’s eschewed pink in favor of blue. Pink was my go-to while growing up in the 70s. She asked for a soccer jersey. I’d wanted the Barbie Star Traveler MotorHome RV Camper. It didn’t matter that
Barbie–with blonde hair and blue eyes, and anatomically impossible measurements–didn’t look anything like me.
Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling are stars of “Barbie.” (Credit: Jean_Nelson/Depositphotos.com)
Eventually I began to stray—I cheated on Barbie. Heck, I even cheated on Ken. I got a Cher doll. Taller, darker skinned, and with black hair and similar eyes, Cher came closer to resembling me. I sent Cher—and Barbie—on a date with G.I. Joe, who was “on loan” from my younger cousin. My evolution had begun.
By the time I was pregnant and in my 30s, both Pretty in Pink and Barbie were fully in my rearview mirror. Armed with a law degree, I was determined to mount a strong defense to any prevailing girlie-girl culture that sought to put my daughter in a box. I did my research. I read Cinderella Ate My Daughter. I studied the whole oeuvre on parenting girls.
And then…nothing. I’d prepared to litigate a case that didn’t happen. Life went on. And then one day this summer, my teen announced she was going to watch the Barbie movie with friends. They all wore pink. She riffled through her brother’s closet for the only pink-white-and-black soccer jersey in the house.
It turns out my worry was misplaced. While I was busy, Barbie had changed, too. She’d held and shed jobs and careers, but she still had a girl squad to support her. She’d changed her look, upgraded her home, and seen the world. Ken was still present but she had plenty of adventures without him.
She was a doll woman who refused to be put in a box. Screenwriter Greta Gerwig had subversively stood the beginnings of Barbie culture on its head and engendered a crossfire debate. Instead of bra burnings, we had Barbie burnings.
And so…what’s a teen to make of this? Or her mother? With all the confidence of GenZ girl power, my daughter thought the movie was fun and hilarious. With the advantage of plenty of hindsight, I was more cautious. And yet, however you look at this cultural moment, I have to tell her this: never underestimate the power of pink.
So, on the cusp of my teen becoming an adult and heading off to college, here’s my advice to her about the road ahead: The more things change, the more they stay the same.
We’re still having societal debates about the role of women and girls. Something will always be burning…Rome…bras…Barbies.
Some women and girls have subverted the traditional message of Pink by embracing it. Now it can signal girl power, breast cancer awareness, and again, masculinity (the Victorians dressed their boys in pink).
If you can’t see the box, you can’t break out of it. On the path ahead, there may be limitations on you and your ambition and your growth. You may pick the “wrong” college, the “wrong” major, the “wrong” job. But you can’t break out until you see it. On the other hand, a box is just a box—and with any luck, it’ll turn out to be flimsy (pink) cardboard.
You got this. After all, you just wore pink for the first time in years. Barbie changed with every decade of her 60+ years. She’s still in the game because she upped her game.
You’re in the driver’s seat for the road ahead. Enjoy the rosy horizons.
More Great Reading:
How Barbie Got Me Through Childhood and Motherhood
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