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Guest Post by Peachy Keenan
The hapless fools who run Current Year Hollywood have done something truly stupid. Dumber than that lesbian kiss in Lightyear. Dumber than putting Jennifer Lawrence in a raunchy teenage sex movie. Not as dumb as every single thing Kathleen Kennedy does, but still, pretty dumb.
They made a Barbie movie—for adults.
A trad mom friend asked me today if she could take her girls to see the upcoming Barbie movie. She’s not on Twitter, so I had to be the bearer of bad news and it wasn’t that Barbie has a preposterous PG-13 rating or includes an unfunny “I’ll beach you off!” (get it?) argument between the Kens.
If you were planning to take your little girls to see Barbie, you might be in for a rude surprise. Today, Time Magazine revealed their new cover featuring the cast of the upcoming movie, and I was today years old when I found out that Warner Bros. did the unthinkable: they cast a man as a Barbie.
We should have known.
For months now, a pink storm has been gathering around the first-ever live action Barbie movie. Leaked movie clips, photos from the set, and feverish anticipation from a surprising source: the young men of the right. Barbie memes have flooded the timeline. “This is the aesthetic that will save us. The pendulum is swinging back hard.” Words of hope fill hearts with joy in this dark and ugly age. And how could they not? The confectionary perfection of a tanned, blonde Aussie bombshell in a pink mini skirt and a 1956 pink convertible Corvette is natural catnip to a certain online demo of men stubbornly drawn to (trigger warning!) traditional female beauty ideals. Gasp, not those! None can resist Margot Robbie in a micro mini and pumps—can you blame them, or her? As Yeats said, why, what could she have done, being what she is? Was there another Troy for her to burn?
You see, the new Barbie movie, in all its retro, vintage neon aesthetic, was going to be based. It was a retvrn. It was not over, and we are so back. After all, it starred the rarest of sights in contemporary movies: an attractive heterosexual white couple! Meme favorite Ryan Gosling in white blonde hair was playing Ken—and Ken was not gay! Finally, incredibly, we were going to get a giant Hollywood movie with a female star of surpassing pulchritude wearing lots of cute little outfits! The set designers used so much Pantone 209 pink paint that there was a sudden worldwide shortage!
Barbie, after all, is still very much a trad. She is the iconic image of classic American femininity—pretty, sweet, kind, and adored by all, especially by preppy arm candy Ken. He may not have much junk in that plastic molded trunk, but he exudes stalwart good-guy-itude. He’s ride-or-die loyal to his main squeeze, ready to take her arm as she totters around on 10-inch stilettos. The world may fade to wrack and ruin, but in their pink paradise, Barbie and Ken will be splashing around in a Dream House for eternity.
Enter Greta, Destroyer of Dolls
Alas! Here come the expectation subverters, in the form of notorious icon destroyer Greta Gerwig.
Not even Barbie and Ken are immune to the predation of the modern-day girlboss expectation subverters. Gerwig, who turned “Little Women” into a girlboss manifesto in petticoats, also wrote and directed “Lady Bird”, which I found pleasantly diverting.
For “Barbie”, Gerwig and star Margot Robbie, who also produced the film, faced an impossible task. How to make the main character likable after 50 years of feminist hatred and scorn reduced the doll to nothing but an oppressive collection of unattainable, and worst of all, male-focused female beauty standards? She’s thin, flexible, blonde, blue eyed, and white. Barbie’s never had anxiety or taken antidepressants. Barbie’s never thought about her pronouns. Barbie has never questioned her gender, or been black out drunk, or done things she shouldn’t in Las Vegas or at Burning Man. Barbie has no tattoos. She has a total of two piercings, just for sparkly stud earrings. Barbie’s never been on Tinder. In fact, poor Barbie’s probably still a virgin, saving herself for the day when the Pink Fairy turns Ken into a Real Man. Despite decades of “stay relevant” updates and new career choices, Barbie has never really strayed too far from her primordial DNA as a debutante who spends her weekends at the pool and the beach club.
All this pink monogrammed baggage was probably the impulse behind the original casting of Amy Schumer as Barbie. They were going to subvert expectations with the stunt casting of a potty-mouthed apple-shaped comic known for her tremendous body count and endless dick jokes. Supposedly, Schumer dropped out because the script was not feminist enough.
Smash cut to: Greta Gerwig writes a new script for Margot Robbie. One that involves Barbie suddenly becoming self-aware, asking the dolls if they “ever think about death.”
As shown in the new trailer, her tiptoe-frozen feet suddenly go flat. She loses her supernatural doll powers to float off her roof and land in her car unharmed. She meets cynical Butch Lesbian Barbie, played by Kate MacKinnon (in the movie they call her Weird Barbie), who in a Matrix-like moment makes Barbie choose to stay in Barbieland (“where all problems of feminism and equal rights have been solved”) by selecting the pink high heel, or choose to go off to the feminist paradise of the Real World, represented by a comfortable brown Birkenstock. Barbie takes the Birkenstock pill and is freed from her perfect prison.
(It reminds me of the plot of “Elf”, and to underline that joke, Will Ferrell plays the Mattel CEO.)
The movie also includes a bit of stunt casting that I did not anticipate. One of the three Diversity Barbies who play the lead character’s sidekicks is a man. A white man, no less. In the new trailer, this white guy is on screen only briefly; he’s easy to miss, despite his strangely deep voice.
Here we go again: a white man stealing a plum job from a biological woman. Thanks, feminism.
And: not only does transgender “woman” Hari Nef play a Barbie, they cast him as… Doctor Barbie. Yes kids, there is a transgender doctor in the Barbie movie. Message: Little girls can be anything, even doctors—as long as they’re born male.
It’s unclear whether Hari Nef’s hairy nards are still intact or not, but if he is a post-of transwoman, that means he will be the very first Barbie in history with anatomically accurate genitalia (i.e., none.)
I would have loved to see the faces on the Warner Bros. executives and nervous Mattel CEO Ynon Kreis when they realized they had accidentally painted themselves into a Bud Light-level corner. I know they’re nervous—because there has been almost a total media blackout of the trans casting until this week, the last week of Pride Month. What probably seemed like a harmless, wickedly subversive bit of casting in 2021 was suddenly, in the cold light of Dylan Mulvaney’s chin stubble and jutting, curveless hips, a blunder of epic proportions.
This is why you don’t know about Doctor FrankenBarbie. They never trumpeted it from the rooftops. Hari Nef is not mentioned in the many articles on the gloriously diverse and multi-hued cast. There will be no Hari Nef doll complete with her own set of tiny pink vaginal dilators. Sorry, kids!
Here, from an MSN article, Nef is totally left out:
“Issa Rae, who plays President Barbie, added, ‘My worry was that it was going to feel too white feminist-y, but I think that it’s self-aware. Barbie Land is perfect, right? It represents perfection. So if perfection is just a bunch of white Barbies, I don’t know that anybody can get on board with that.’ Other Barbies in the movie include Kate McKinnon as Weird Barbie, Alexandra Shipp as Writer Barbie, Sharon Rooney as Lawyer Barbie, Nicola Coughlan as Diplomat Barbie, and Dua Lipa as Mermaid Barbie.”
No Twitter Anon Barbie? Sad! I was almost looking forward to this movie as a semi-delightful romp through some core childhood toy memories, but no longer. It brings me no pleasure to say this, but “Barbie” is the slickest, most visually appealing, and therefore insidious, packaging of feminist clichés and trans grooming we’ve seen yet.
Please—try to pass on “Barbie” harder than Hairy Nef is trying to pass as an icon of femininity.
Peachy Keenan is the author of “Domestic Extremist: A Practical Guide to Winning the Culture War” (Regnery). She is a senior contributor to The Federalist and a contributing editor and regular essayist for The American Mind, a publication of The Claremont Institute. She also writes at peachykeenan.substack.com, and you can always find her on Twitter @keenanpeachy, at least until she is canceled.