Gemma Styles: How, in 2016, Is Barbie Still The ‘Definition Of Perfection’?

Even Barbie doesn't look like your childhood Barbie anymore. So why are we still holding on so hard to the warped idea of 'perfection' she used to represent?

Gemma 10th

by Gemma Styles |
Published on

Did you hear about the person they cast in the new Barbie film? They wanted it to be as realistic as possible so they cast that famous actress who has child’s size three feet and an eighteen inch waist. You know who I mean. 5’9”? Giant head? Walks on all fours thanks to completely impossible human proportions? Oh wait, no, they needed to cast a real person.

The snarky horrible internet police have been out in force this week, casting their unwelcome twattery at Amy Schumer,who set to star inthe live-action Barbie film, due next year. Schumer cuts a controversial figure at the best of times – she’s been accused of racism in the past andis often seen as a leading figure in ‘white feminism.’ But – and here’s my disclaimer - whether you love her or loathe her, the story at hand pertains to a much bigger issue with how we view female bodies – which is what I’d like to focus on.

In an Instagram post, Schumer thanked trolls for ‘making it so evident’ that she was a great choice to play ‘an important and evolving icon’ – which is a reference to Mattel’s Barbie brand who early this year undertook a huge relaunch of the dolls, featuring 24 new hairstyles, three body shapes and seven different skin tones, woo!

The Barbie movie centres around a character who is ejected from the Barbie universe, or wherever the Barbies live, because she isn’t ‘perfect’ enough. Undoubtably this Barbie protagonist will go on a journey of self-discovery, find inner confidence and peace, go back and teach all the other Barbies a valuable lesson about acceptance and not being a dick to one another, etc. etc., but some people (read: mainly a lot of men on the internet) aren’t happy about the possibility of Schumer playing a Barbie doll, as the toy figure is supposed to represent the ‘definition of perfection’ and she doesn’t cut the mustard.

This is stupid in lots of ways, but mainly because the whole film is supposed to be about a Barbie who ‘isn’t perfect enough’ so really by their own logic that would make her a fabulous choice anyway. Duhhhh. Essentially what we have here is another classic example of people with no right making fun of people they don’t know and trying to make them feel ashamed of who they are. It’s not right and it’s almost unbelievable that we’re still having this same conversation about body shaming and beauty standards and really - how exhausting is it all? Very. As Amy said in her Instagram post: ‘It's that kind of response that let's you know something's wrong with our culture and we all need to work together to change it.’

However you feel about Schumer, or Barbie, or the internet, this is just another example of how we have a lot more work to do before solving some of our society’s big problems. You want an actress who looks like the Barbie of your childhood? She doesn’t exist - and even Barbie doesn’t look like that any more. Toy companies are listening to feedback over ridiculous standards for women (and young girls), and Hollywood is sort-of getting involved. The fact that it’s taking the rest of the world so long to cotton on is depressing to say the least.

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Follow Gemma on Twitter: @GemmaAnneStyles

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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