Pink, sparkles, and feminism: How Barbie has changed the film landscape

Words by Saskia (she/her) 16 VIC

When I used to think of Barbie growing up, I would think about my dolls (and the god awful DIY haircuts that I would give them – shoutout to my weird Barbie who was always in the splits). My thoughts used to be about this doll, with a perfect hourglass figure, blonde hair to die for, and a life that I longed for. She had a dream house, a dreamy boyfriend, and what seemed like every pair of shoes ever.

Now, with the chart-breaking success of Greta Gerwig’s sensational fantasy comedy film ‘Barbie’, there is a whole new meaning to what Barbie is and what she symbolises. The film has reclaimed the feminist figure and turned her into something that so many young girls can relate to.

Growing up in the 2010’s, I found myself becoming so against society’s concept of femininity. Like so many of my friends when I was younger, I was horrified at the concept that pink could be somebody’s favourite colour. God forbid! Pink used to be something that was always associated with Barbie, and Barbie was just a silly doll for little girls…right? None of us actually said it back then, but because we associated pink with girlhood – we viewed loving pink as a sign of weakness. Pink wasn’t what we viewed as a ‘strong colour’, and we were seen as fragile if we liked it.

However, after the hot pink, sparkles and fabulous outfits of ‘Barbie’, I’m finding so many more women in my life are reclaiming that part of their identity. Of course, it’s absolutely fine to not love the colour pink or to have a more masculine personality type – but reducing that judgement that comes attached to having feminine interests is critical.

‘Barbie’ is the highest grossing movie of 2023, and the highest grossing Warner Bros film of all time. It’s even surpassed the Harry Potter franchise,. The fact that this film has exceeded expectations not only financially but in its popularity, is astounding.

While it may not have been entirely subtle in showing the sexism and discrimination that women face in society – that is exactly what was needed. There have been too many films that have sugar-coated girlhood and what women experience, and to have one that stated it so blatantly (and with a comedic lens) was refreshing.

I cannot express how happy it made me, sitting in a cinema dressed in pink with my closest friends and family, watching a movie that made me feel so seen.Everybody cheered when Gloria (played by America Ferrera), had a monologue explaining what women go through every single day. I knew at that moment that every woman in that audience related to what she was saying. Because she was right: “we have to be thin but not too thin, and beautiful but not in a way that tempts men or threatens other women.” She perfectly summed up those struggles, and made me and so many other people feel so goddamn heard.

‘Barbie’ is a groundbreaking film, and I left that cinema with a smile that could nearly break my face. We aren’t sugar-coating this anymore, and we are being blunt in a way that is so effective. Seeing a film about women that isn’t sexualising them, and is showing everybody all of the crap that we have to go made me think one thing: FINALLY.

‘Barbie’ has helped me reclaim my feminine identity, and to see it do the same for so many of my friends has been beautiful. Finally, I can admit how much I love pink – and it’s brilliant!

To end with a quote from the film: “Barbie changed everything. And then she changed everything again.”


Illustration by Aileen. You can find more of her work on Instagram @aileenngstudio

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