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The Politics of Barbiecore

by Rebecca Mcphillips

How has pink become an angry colour?

The much anticipated Barbie movie is set to release in July this year and it looks like fans have been counting down since its announcement in early 2022. With now over a year of excitement comes a lot of expectations: with many anticipating a big enough stir to cause “a cultural reset”.

When filming began in March 2022 and again when the teaser trailer was released in December 2022, the internet could talk about nothing else. Its impact has already began. 

Barbiecore has been dominating fashion for nearly a year now, with Barbiecore’s google searches peaking in January 2023, and hot pink power dress pieces dominating the runways (note, Valentino’s Pink PP collection).

High Street fashion has not let this opportunity go to waste. 

Data from shopping service, Klarna, reports consumers purchasing 970% more pink minidresses since January 2022 and Clearpay reported a 47% increase in blonde hair dye sales last summer. 

In a more direct consumerist venture, Primark released a nostalgic Barbie collection last year selling all things Barbie, from beauty supplies to matching pyjamas. 

This is the first time in a couple of decades we have seen the long demonised plastic blonde bombshell embraced on such a wide scale. 

Platform block heels, hot pink suits, and statement bows are everywhere right now.

Throughout history, Barbie has been a figure of controversy. Some say she’s a feminist figure showcasing that a woman can be and do anything while, more commonly, it was argued the Mattel toy promotes an unrealistic beauty standard. 

So why is Barbie’s ‘comeback’ so significant? 

Maybe it’s representative of the changing face of female rage. 

Hear me out. 

In the 00s, feminism looked a whole lot different. 

It was divisive. 

The general white feminist narrative at the time was ‘I can do whatever a man can do’ instead of ‘why should the system cater to him over me?’. 

This led to a lot of competition among women. A lot of tearing others down to rise to the top. Not to mention the creation of a toxic “Girl Boss” culture. 

In the 90s and 00’s, the media showed that it was seen as more ‘desirable’ to be a traditionally career driven, unlikely prom queen. 

Note that in all the popular films and books at the time, we end up rooting for the ‘intellectual’ book worm and hating the conventionally pretty girl who likes fashion and boys and… pink. 

In pop culture, the media did its best to break down any woman who dared to be in the public eye. 

A woman’s mental health, body shape, and individuality was the punchline of every joke. 

Misogyny was rife and social media wasn’t around to hold publishers account or encourage widespread critical consumerism. It seemed like the only way to be respected was to fit a certain image. 

Note the 00’s narrative surrounding figures such as: 

Brittany Spears, Paris Hilton, Nicole Ritchie, Pamela Anderson, Lindsay Lohan, and Christina Aguilera.

The media's chokehold over society resulted in the demonisation of a certain type of femininity. 

The blonde ‘bimbo’ was officially declared OUT. 

In the 2010s, as social media presence builds, the narrative starts to go ‘hey ladies, why do we hate each other again?’

One pandemic, a cluster of Kardashians and TikTok takeover later, we start hearing those misogynistic voices from the likes of Andrew Tate. 

The more feminism evolves, the louder incel culture seems to get - something that definitely wasn’t helped by an almost 2 year lockdown. 

We begin seeing more and more stories about violence against women, the overturning of Roe V Wade meaning abortion rights are taking a step back, and theres even news about section 28 being reconsidered. 

At a time like this, Barbiecore re-emerging is incredibly culturally significant. It’s a political statement about female unity. 

We see this increase in female presenting people wearing all pink and blonde locks regardless of sexuality, race or gender. 

At the same time- the women who were so villainized and silenced in the 00s are telling their OWN stories. 

‘This is Paris’ drops, the Free Brittany movement picks up speed, and most recently the Pamela Anderson Documentary takes to the top ten on Netflix.

It’s a statement that we can be feminine and wear whatever we want while still holding the right to be heard, seen and respected. 

According to the synopsis, this is kind of what the Barbie movie is all about. 

You don’t need to be perfect to be treated with dignity. And sisterhood is not to be overlooked. 

With 2022’s on-screen characters like Pearl, Piggy’s Sara, Women Talking’s Salome, The Woman King’s Nanisca and more all embodying feminine rage, it is no surprise that femininity is finally being praised more in 2023. And pink trending as a result makes more than perfect sense.

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