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Nostalgia 101 — Why I love Barbie the doll and Barbie the Movie

By Debra Wallace

Philadelphia, PA (The Hollywood Times) – 07/24/2023 – The Barbie Doll and I go way back. In fact, we were born in the same year, 1959, and some of my earliest, and fondest memories of child play were with my Barbie. My friends and I enjoyed dressing Barbie, styling her hair, and we were constantly searching for those darn shoes that never stayed on her feet and were always getting lost. We frequently could only find one shoe.

I had a pink Barbie case, that I took everywhere, and loads of clothes for Barbie, Skipper, and Midge. My two grandmothers contributed to this significantly. My Grandmother Ethel purchased clothes and accessories for my dolls; while my grandma Ida, took fabric swatches and made clothes for them. I may have had the first Barbie who wore blue jeans that Grandma Ida lovingly made for me.

So, basking in the nostalgia of all of this, I walked into the movie Barbie – which was released on July 21 as the summer of 2023’s blockbuster — hoping for the best…and what I got was so much more.

Margot Robbie’s Barbie is charming, inviting, and inventive. I loved the colorful set in this live-action Barbie film and remembered how much I wanted a Barbie dreamhouse that I never got.

Robbie, best known for her roles in the 2013 film The Wolf of Wall Street with Leonardo DiCaprio, the 2016 movie Suicide Squad with Jared Leto, and the 2018 movie I Tonya, shines as the leading actor in this film and as a producer who is gaining a reputation for her female-inspired movies.

Margot Robbie as Barbie in the Warner Bros. film, “BARBIE. Photo credit: Warner Bros.

I had the opportunity to talk to the gracious Robbie during a press event for Suicide Squad. At the time we were both headed to the ladies’ room and as we found our way down the long hallways of a Manhattan warehouse she talked about her career, her free time, her passion for acting, and her appreciation for her loyal fans.

Robbie had a great deal to say about playing Barbie, making the movie, her co-stars, and the director.

“Making a Barbie movie was an amazing opportunity, one we thought we could do something really special with if we could approach it in an unexpected, surprising, and clever way,” Robbie explained in a press release.

“As Greta has said, it was also terrifying! We knew it was a lot to take on, as audiences probably have a preconceived notion of how they think and feel about Barbie; whether good or bad,” she said. “So, that presented a big challenge, but we were up for the challenge.”

RYAN GOSLING as Ken and MARGOT ROBBIE as Barbie in the Warner Bros. film, Barbie. Photo credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Robbie added that Ryan Gosling made the perfect Ken, she loved the concept of Barbie Land and gives high praise to Gerwig. “Greta has this superpower in the vibe she creates on set, which is so in line with what we wanted Barbie Land to be: bright, happy, and supportive…She’s literally got Barbie energy.”

While watching the Barbie movie, I took note of the expert directing by Greta Gerwig, the crisp writing by Gerwig and collaborator Noah Baumbach, the music, the expert choreography, and the performances from the rest of the A-list cast, including the indomitable Ryan Gosling. I was thinking that his turn in La La Land well prepared him for the many song-and-dance numbers.

Gerwig, a sublime director who is gaining in notoriety, was nominated for three Oscars including Best Adapted Screenplay for Little Women, and two for Lady Bird (Directing and Original Screenplay).

While hanging out in Barbie Land, I also loved learning about how Ruth Handler, a woman way ahead of her time, created a doll, named it after her daughter, Barbara, and stood her ground when her husband and others at Mattel said it would never make it. She is an awesome role model for girls and women who still let naysayers get in their heads and allow them to stop them from pursuing their lofty dreams.

Friends of mine attending the Barbie movie in costume

I saw the new Barbie movie, from Warner Bros., with a group of female friends, many of whom channeled their favorite memories by dressing up in pink or an actual Barbie costume.

I wore a hot pink and white bucket hat, a hot pink shirt, and my pink PJ bottoms, with my grandma Ethel’s hot pink scarf. We ate pizza and pink Barbie cupcakes and drank sodas, and the girl bonding that went on before and after was also memorable. We took a commemorative photo in front of the movie poster in the lobby. It is always a great time to make new friends.

In what is been called “a swan song to Girlhood,” the film’s director Greta Gerwig told Vogue Magazine in May that “young girls are funny and brash and confident, and then they just – stop. All of a sudden she thinks, ‘Oh, I’m not good enough.’ ”

Friends at the recent Barbie movie

It becomes clear that the movie wants us to explore why girls abandon not only their Barbie dolls but many of the positive beliefs associated with them. Especially, because as the years went on Barbie had so many more options – doctor, nurse, mermaid, diplomat, politician, scientist, author, and so much more.

What else did I learn from Barbie? There is a rather lengthy speech from America Ferrara’s character, an overlooked female Mattel employee who is losing connection with her teen daughter, and Barbie becomes their way to find a way to one another.

There are so many life lessons packed in that one speech that I honestly can’t remember them all.

Group photo of Barbie pals seeing the movie in Suburban Philadelphia

But the gist, among all of that wonderous pink, is that women, and everyone in our lives, expect us to be perfect superheroes, are quick to point out our failings instead of celebrating all of our accomplishments, and we are always way too hard on ourselves. And the profound message from this movie is that we need to stop and embrace all of the wonderful, and not so great, qualities that we possess. And celebrate all that we do!

So, if you want to be entertained, learn a little, and possibly enjoy some nostalgia, head to this adorably sweet, and profound movie with your best girlfriend, mom, aunt, or young girl – or anyone else you enjoy seeing clever movies with.

Who knows? When you get home from seeing Barbie, you may be tempted to buy a pink Barbie T-shirt, wear your hair in a ponytail, or perhaps buy yourself, or your niece, a brand-new Barbie doll. And I REALLY love that pink Barbie car. My birthday is in February…I’m just saying.

Margot Robbie as Barbie in the Warner Bros. film, “BARBIE. Photo credit: Warner Bros.