Though it’s still a few months out from its release, Greta Gerwig’s Barbie has already made a serious impression on the public. Fans seem entranced by a number of elements from the trailers, from Margot Robbie’s hot pink fits to that impeccable shot of her feet. Even Chrissy Teigen joined the fans in marveling at the latter. In short, the movie’s cultural footprint (no pun intended) is swiftly proving to be quite vast. One of the latest folks to weigh in on the production is Barbara Handler – the doll’s namesake. She provided some honest thoughts on the footage while also admitting that she and her late brother, Ken, have been embarrassed by their connection to the property.
The Mattel-managed brand was established by business mogul Ruth Handler in 1959 and was met with massive success almost right away. Ahead of the launch, Handler opted to name the doll after her daughter and, needless to say, it stuck. The toy line would later give the trendy doll a boyfriend, who was ultimately named after Handler’s son, Kenneth. Some may find it cool to have this sort of link to pop culture, but apparently that’s not the case for Barbara Handler. As she explained to TMZ, she doesn’t go by Barbie and, considering that she says her brother didn’t care for the link either, one has to wonder if he preferred not to be referred to as Ken.
It’s easy to understand why she’d prefer not to be associated with something that’s so ubiquitous. Sure, people around the world cherish Ruth Handler’s lucrative creation, but I’d imagine that the attention would get tiring for Barbara. Not to mention the fact that many people’s first instinct may be to call her by the doll’s name when they meet her.
That embarrassment aside, it sounds like Barbara Handler is impressed by the Margot Robbie-led motion picture. She also told the website that the Australian actress seems to be perfect in the role and that the star-studded cast (which includes Ryan Gosling and his Internet-breaking abs) seem to make for a sweet ensemble. When it comes to Robbie’s work, she seems particularly impressed by the voice she opted to use. Handler also stated that while her mother, who died at the age of 85 in 2002, never imagined the doll getting a big-screen production, she’d be pleased to know it’s happening.
This is a glowing endorsement if I ever heard one and, while the cast and crew likely aimed to block out any critics, this may give them a bit of comfort. Of course, the comments also speak to just how impressive the footage has been thus far, and I imagine that Warner Bros. is hoping this wave of positivity continues through the release.
Based on what’s been revealed at this point, it would appear that Greta Gerwig, who co-wrote the script with Noah Baumbach, is going for something that’s a bit more surreal. They also seem to be playfully poking fun at certain aspects of the doll and the fictional world that’s been established for her. Knowing Gerwig and Baumbach, the humor will probably be sharp and very self-aware. The tongue-in-cheek vibe is particularly on display when Ryan Gosling and Simu Liu’s Kens have that “beach” confrontation.
Rest assured though, devoted Barbie fans. At the end of the day, the movie doesn’t seem to be set on just deconstructing the mythos – it also wants to celebrate what people love about it. That’s a tricky balance to strike but, if anyone can do it, it would be Greta Gerwig and the “magic” Margot Robbie, who also serves as a producer on the movie. We’ll see if their work still impresses Barbara Handler after she’s seen the flick.
Barbie opens in theaters on July 21 and is one of the most highly anticipated entries on the schedule of 2023 new movie releases.