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The Cultural Significance of Barbie By Amina Radoncic

July 21st was a day that the world had waited for in sheer anticipation; months were dedicated to carefully selecting the perfect pink and frilly outfits, as well as much darker attire, for an event that would go down in history. Time went by painstakingly slowly as fans counted down the hours left until they’d finally be able to experience the event of a lifetime. This occasion is known as the Barbenheimer phenomenon.

(Kelsie Gibson/People)

The term Barbenheimer was coined by the fanbases of the two movies that were coincidentally scheduled to hit theaters on the same day, those being the fantasy comedy film, Barbie, and the biographical drama, Oppenheimer. Barbie, directed by Greta Gerwig, was a light-hearted comedy that followed the iconic doll’s journey after experiencing an existential crisis, while touching upon more serious topics surrounding the wide variety of issues women deal with. Oppenheimer, on the flip side, was a historical film based upon the life of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the American physicist who built the atomic bomb. While Barbenheimer began as a light-hearted rivalry between the drastically different movies, it soon became far more serious than that. Of the two, the film that received significantly more online criticism from the public was Barbie, with much of that hatred being rooted in blatant sexism.

Even before the release of either films, incels and sexists took to social media to express how they felt about Barbie. It was referred to as “woke” and “man-hating” for exploring feminist themes and channeling female empowerment, with well-known conservatives, such as Ben Shapiro and Elon Musk, having quite a bit to say about it. Shapiro made great use of Twitter to express his sentiments, stating “All you need to know about #BarbieTheMovie is that it unironically uses the word ‘patriarchy’ more than ten times” (Forbes). His anti-Barbie rampage did not end there, with him going as far as to create two separate hour-long videos on the film, while even setting Barbie dolls on fire in one of them. Musk mocked the movie for similar reasons, tweeting “If you take a shot every time Barbie says the word ‘patriarchy’, you will pass out before the movie ends” (Forbes). In particular, those who ridiculed Barbie primarily had an issue with the portrayal of Ken in the film, as they considered it a demasculinizing image of what a typical man is supposed to stand for. In Barbieland, women were at the forefront. It was a world dominated by feminism, in which they held positions such as Judge Barbie, President Barbie, and Doctor Barbie. The fact of the matter is that the role of women in Barbieland was a representation of the male-dominated society in modern times, with the opposite gender taking control of the typical concentration of power among men. Despite the hate it received, there is no doubt that Barbie has greatly impacted millions of young women. By addressing the struggles that they deal with regularly, it empowered the female population to unite and embrace girlhood. The decision of Gerwig to portray Barbie as a feminist icon has allowed women from all over to come together, inspiring them to truly understand their full potential.

Works Cited

Gibson, Kelsie. "Everything to Know About the 'Barbie' Movie." People, 8 Aug.

2023, Accessed 12 Aug.


Murray, Conor. "'Barbie' Largely Praised For Feminist Themes—But Draws Anger

From The Anti-Woke." Forbes, 21 July 2023,



?sh=e5d51ab58bdd. Accessed 12 Aug. 2023.

Amina Radoncic (she/her) is a sixteen-year-old writer from Long Island, New York. She is a lover of classic literature, her favorite reads include To Kill A Mockingbird and Little Women. While she chooses to spend most of her time reading or writing, you can also find her watching history documentaries, listening to music ranging from Taylor Swift to Vivaldi, and spending time with her dog.

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