Because "Barbie" creatives and Mattel executives struggle to agree on whether the film is feminist

Because “Barbie” creatives and Mattel executives struggle to agree on whether the film is feminist

For the actress and producer Margot Robbie, the imminent Barbie the film is a feminist story, but Mattel executives don’t entirely agree.

In a new Time feature of the magazine about the history of the brand and the journey of film to the big screen, members of BarbieThe creative team and top executives at the toymaker-turned-“intellectual-property company that operates franchises,” according to Mattel CEO Ynon Kreiz, pave the way for more than a decade-long journey to bring the iconic doll into live-action. One of the biggest threads of that journey is a shared vision for an inclusive vision for the toy brand, which has a complicated and storied history of representing the diversity of femininity and women’s potential.

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“I knew this wasn’t going to avoid the parts of Barbie that are more interesting but potentially a little more complicated,” said actress Hari Nef, who plays Dr. Barbie. “The contemporary history of feminism and body positivity: There are questions about how Barbie fits into all of this.”

It’s a complex view that may not necessarily be feminist, depending on who you ask. Robbie Brenner, Mattel Films’ first executive producer and “architect of its cinematic universe,” second Time, said the Greta Gerwig-directed film (who she co-wrote with partner Noah Baumbach) was “not a feminist film.” According to reporter Eliana Dockterman, it was a “feeling echoed by other Mattel executives,” and one that seemed to catch Robbie off guard when he was confronted.

“Who said this?” she reportedly asked, before setting out her opinion of hers, whether the film could be labeled feminist. “It’s not like it is, or it isn’t. It’s a movie. It’s a film that has so much inside.

What the producer and star said the film definitely is, is a story that “isn’t a piece of Barbie” and is instead a story where “we’re in on the joke.” Robbie’s comments somewhat echo those of Richard Dickson, COO and president of Mattel, who, while declining to discuss why an Amy Schumer-starring version of the film hasn’t moved forward, said production Barbie “It was about finding the right talent who can appreciate the authenticity of the brand and bring that controversy to life in a way that, yes, makes fun of us but is ultimately purposeful and has heart.”

Whether or not to call the film a feminist isn’t the only disagreement the film’s creative team had with Mattel. Dickson confirmed to the mag that he flew to the London set during filming and argued with Gerwig and Robbie about a scene “that he felt was off-brand,” according to Time. It was only after the two acted out the scene that he changed his mind. “When you look on the page, the nuance isn’t there, the delivery isn’t there,” Robbie explains.

“In that very first meeting, we made it clear to Ynon that we will honor the legacy of your brand, but if we don’t acknowledge certain things, if we don’t say it, someone else will,” Robbie added on how the film would approach the story. of the brand. “So you might as well be part of that conversation.”

While there were and remain disagreements about the nature of the film, part of the conversation is the Barbie the creative team and Mattel apparently agreed on its inclusive casting, mirroring Mattel’s expansion of its Barbie and Ken lines in the mid-2010s. The modernization effort has added diverse skin tones, hair types, and body sizes to the long-standing toy brand with a total of 175 different Barbies, fully affirming one of the brand’s long-standing messages: that she and her buyers can be anything they aspire to be.

So while Robbie is the main “Barbie” in the film, Dickson said it was to help those less in touch with the company’s newest line expansions connect with the story. “All the characters are Barbie. It’s the perfect cast to express who Barbie is today. And Margot is the bridge,” she explained.

For Robbie, that line expansion was key to getting the film started. “If (Mattel) hadn’t made that change to have multiple Barbies, I don’t think I would have wanted to try and make a Barbie movie,” he says. “I don’t think you should say, ‘This is the only version of what Barbie is, and it’s what women should aspire to be and look and behave.'”

Comedian and actress Kate McKinnon, who plays Odd Barbie, said the film “honestly comments on the positive and negative feelings” associated with the Barbie brand for those who have purchased the doll, making it “a trenchant cultural critique”.

For Issa Rae, who plays President Barbie, her “concern” was that the film “felt too white feminist, but I think it’s self-aware,” she said Time. “Barbie Land is perfect, isn’t it? It represents perfection. So if perfection is just a bunch of white Barbies, I don’t know if anyone can accept that.