How Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie’s ‘Barbie’ Can Avoid the ‘Baggage’ That Comes With the Doll’s History

The upcoming Barbie movie’s production has a long history of bumps, twists, and turns. However, it’s finally happening with Lady Bird filmmaker Greta Gerwig co-writing and directing with co-writer Noah Baumbach. The Margot Robbie-starring Barbie is based on the original doll that has a problematic history. Here’s how the film can avoid the “baggage” that comes with it.

Margot Robbie said that ‘Barbie’ comes with a lot of ‘baggage’

'Barbie' actor Margot Robbie and filmmaker Greta Gerwig standing wearing a leopard print dress and a blue dress with an arm around each other
L-R: Margot Robbie and filmmaker Greta Gerwig | Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic for FIJI Water

Robbie once opened up about her involvement in Barbie to Vogue. However, she recognized that the brand’s history isn’t necessarily clean of controversy. It also comes with a lot of “nostalgic connections” that put enormous expectations on it from the fandom.

“Right, it comes with a lot of baggage!” Margot said with a smile. “And a lot of nostalgic connections. But with that come a lot of exciting ways to attack it. People generally hear ‘Barbie’ and think, ‘I know what that movie is going to be,’ and then they hear that Greta Gerwig is writing and directing it, and they’re like, ‘Oh, well, maybe I don’t.'”

‘Barbie’ has sex doll origins and issues with diversity

The famous toy has sex doll origins that many consumers forget about in the modern-day. Barbie and Ruth author Robin Gerber told Time about some of the doll’s origins and what their original purpose was. The inspiration for the American doll came from a “saucy high-end call girl named Lilli.” These dolls became ridiculously popular.

“Lilli dolls could be bought in tobacco shops, bars, and adult-themed toy stores,” Gerber wrote. “Men got Lilli dolls as gag gifts at bachelor parties, put them on their car dashboard, dangled them from the rearview mirror, or gave them to girlfriends as a suggestive keepsake.”

However, Reader’s Digest explores some of the most substantial and controversial moments in Barbie’s history. This includes the “Don’t Eat!” diet, a racially-insensitive “Oreo-themed” Black Barbie, and a “puberty” Barbie whose breasts grow by cranking the doll’s arm.

Gerwig and Robbie have the ability to bring the best version possible to the live-adaptation, Barbie. However, it’s clear that decisions to sell certain iterations of the toy line don’t always land well with consumers.

Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie have the chance to show modern priorities

Gerwig and Robbie drew the curiosity of many audiences with their Barbie movie. Most recently, Warner Bros. released a first look at the lead actor as the title character in a pink car with a bright smile. This provided the world with the first look at the character.

Barbie has the tricky task of bringing what the world knows and loves about the doll without enforcing unrealistic body types or bringing insensitive racial references. However, it wouldn’t be the wisest decision to totally erase the company’s history either. Robbie and Gerwig’s film has the opportunity to make Barbie the type of film that both longtime doll lovers and young girls can look up to.

Gerwig is known to embrace one’s differences in previous projects, including Lady Bird, Little Women, and Frances Ha. However, this is the first time that she will be working on a studio project of this magnitude. There is movie franchise potential here and it’s important that the screenplay learned from the mistakes of Barbie’s history.

Barbie drives into theaters on July 21, 2023.

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