We can all aspire to be a Barbie and Ken it seems, according to Greta Gerwig at least. Early last year, the highly-lauded auteur—behind feminist flicks 20th Century Women and Ladybird—announced her next big Hollywood move: Barbie. Previously, our first look at the candy crush dream of Mattel’s pastel-hued world included news of our stellar leading cast of Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling as our starry duo, alongside fun inclusions such as Simu Liu and Issa Rae. Those pink-drenched shots from the film were splashed nearly everywhere, leading the way for the Barbiecore trend that in part contributed to the excitement surrounding Gerwig’s film.
But as of 4 April 2023, Warner Bros. released teaser number two alongside a slew of creative promotional posters that revealed to us more fabulous cast additions and potential plot points. Emma Mackey, who funnily enough, has often been recognised as Robbie’s doppelgänger, has been unveiled as a Barbie too, only she has a Nobel Prize in Physics. Another reveal? Hari Nef’s version of Barbie is a doctor, while Bridgerton’s Nicola Coughlan’s got politics flowing through her veins and is a diplomat. On the flipside, Ncuti Gatwa and Simu Liu are simply, playing other Kens.
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But perhaps the most jaw-dropping additions are that of pop star Dua Lipa and Helen Mirren. Whilst the latter is none other than our highly-regarded narrator, the former will be starring as the most fantastical alter-ego of Barbie, a blue-headed mermaid. With the latest trailer now with us, it’s inevitable that many are left wondering as to just what Gerwig’s vision will be. We shared the same sentiments, and got to penning our wishlist for everything we’ll be hoping to see in the highly-anticipated picture adaptation of the iconic Mattel toy, come its release this July.
1 / 5
Dua Lipa's acting debut
There had been talks about whether Dua Lipa would have anything to do with Barbie, since the star had previously been spotted visiting the set during filming. Now that her role has been confirmed as the mermaid version Barbie, we’re definitely in high anticipation for what we hope will probably be a memorable acting debut for the singer, rather than just a mere inclusion. We’d like to think Barbie just might be the perfect first stage for the pop princess considering the musical nature of the film, but much is being left to our imagination still, since Lipa herself was not seen in the newest trailer.
2 / 5
Costumes, costumes, costumes
What’s more to say? The entire selling point for Mattel’s most popular toy was the idea of playing dress-up and so it only makes sense that we’ll be hoping for the same logic to be applied to the film. From the released trailer and stills alone, it seems we’re in good hands, especially considering Oscar-winning costume designer Jacqueline Durran—who was behind the cottagecore of Gerwig’s Little Women as well—had been the creative mastermind behind all the fashion for Barbie.
3 / 5
A thematic soundtrack by Dua Lipa herself
Surely “I’m a Barbie girl, in the Barbie world/Life in plastic, it’s fantastic,” isn’t going to cut it for Gerwig’s Barbie. Considering Lipa is already a part of the cast, it stands to reason then, that we’ll be hoping for the star herself to be behind the film’s popping track list. Known for her sultry, addictive refrains on hit songs such as ‘Levitating’ and ‘Don’t Start Now’, the singer’s sure to put her own bonafide spin to the music on Barbie—and we can’t help but wonder if the banging dance number at the tail end of the first teaser is hers to begin with.
4 / 5
A not-so-subtle snag at what representation actually means
For the longest time, there really only lived one version of Barbie; she’s blond, beautiful and she’s got blue eyes. Not only was Barbie white-washed, she was almost always stick-thin—to the point where most girls who grew up with a Barbie in hand can recall that odd moment when they first compared Barbie’s proportions to their own. A couple years later, Christie came along, and she was meant to be Barbie’s African-American friend. But never Barbie herself. Only in 2019 did Mattel kick off the ‘Barbie Fashionistas’ line, where the dolls would have varying skin tones, body types and hair colours.
It’s clear that Mattel’s Barbie has long faced an issue of lacking representation; Barbie was always the protagonist; the blonde, white bombshell always seen as the leading lady in the central plot of Barbie and Ken. But with the latest posters from the upcoming film, it’s clear that the lighthearted manner of casting all sorts of actors as Barbies and Kens was a pointed one. Exactly how this might play out in script and plot remains to be seen, but we’re dreaming of a fuschia-drenched universe in which every Barbie and Ken can co-exist together.
5 / 5
Greta Gerwig's feminist vision
Apart from just issues of representation, Mattel has undeniable ran into controversy for the reductive role of Barbie, most obviously implied through the Barbie song. With lyrics such as “You can brush my hair, undress me everywhere” and “Kiss me here, touch me there, hanky panky”, Barbie was cast into the masculine gaze, and ultimately ingrained hypersexualised images of the female into young children. In 2014, Mattel also ran into issues with perpetuating gender stereotypes through extremely coded campaigns for their dolls.
Over the past decade, Gerwig has made a name for herself as a feminist auteur, and her place on the director’s seat alone is perhaps what most film aficionados caught onto first. Although the posters may seem to point to a playfully kaleidoscopic imagination of the Barbie universe, it also clues us in on Gerwig’s focus for the film. All the Barbies are well, somebodys, but all the Kens…are simply just Kens. Whilst it may be too soon to tell, perhaps there’s a clear message that Gerwig might be making with all her Barbies being established in their own right, from being the President, to Nobel Prize winners and doctors.