Barbie and Women's Representation in Film.

Does art imitate life, or does life imitate art? In the midst of the film and television industry’s awards season, it’s an opportune time to recognize how cinema both reflects and leads societal changes and progress. Or does it? A look at the success of Director Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie” is more than the story of a blockbuster hit.
By Heidi Basch-Harod and Erin Pedersen
Barbie and Women's Representation in Film
Source 1: IAN WEST/PA IMAGES
Barbie and Women's Representation in Film
Source 2: Vanity Fair, Glamour

No Longer a “Risky Investment”.

In a recent interview, Pioneer Director and Actor, Jodie Foster, expressed her admiration for Greta Gerwig’s Film, “Barbie”, which broke no fewer than 17 movie records in 2023. Foster went on to celebrate how the film shattered preconceived notions about women in both acting and directing roles, marking a triumph for equality and recognition in the industry.

Source: NPR, The Statesmen

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A Catalyst for Dismantling Gender-Based Biases.

While “Barbie” is the most successful example of Hollywood’s investment in women behind the camera, before 2023, leading female characters in front of the camera began to populate our cinema screens. “Wonder Woman”, “Black Panther”, “A Promising Young Woman”, “Crazy Rich Asians”, “NomadLand”, and “Hidden Figures” are a few examples of women on the screen, shaping narratives, inspiring future generations, and influencing the entertainment industry toward a trend of more inclusive representation


Source: TVOverMind

Barbie and Women's Representation in Film
Source 3: Jaap Buitendijk
Barbie and Women's Representation in Film
Source 4: Mattel

Mattel Releases 4 New Barbies: Underrepresented Women Filmmakers.

In an effort to maximize the boost to its brand, on January 10, Mattel announced four new dolls for its annual Career of the Year collection. Little girls (and grown ones too), worldwide, can aspire  to be Director Barbie, Studio Executive Barbie, Cinematographer Barbie, and Movie Star Barbie. Bringing Barbie’s professional skill set to more than 250 potential careers. HEY! 


Source: Glitter Magazine

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The Barbie that Got Left Out  (No, it’s not Midge.).

2023 also saw a fierce, three-month strike by the Writers Guild of America, bringing disruptive technologies like AI to the forefront of public discourse on art, content creation, writing, and who owns it. “Screenwriter Barbie” is an unfortunate omission from the Women in Film Barbie Series, mirroring the real life lack of recognition for screenwriting, an integral aspect of the filmmaking process.


Source: SheThePeople

Barbie and Women's Representation in Film
Source 5: ​​SHARON CHEN/MATTEL
Barbie and Women's Representation in Film
Source 6: CSWT&F

Women Behind the Camera: Are We Progressing or Stagnating?

According to the recently released Celluloid Ceiling Report, published by the Center for Women in Television and Film, 14% of 2023’s top 100 films were directed by women. This is up three percent from 2022, but we want more. Especially since women directors tend to hire more women to join them behind the camera. We love that ripple effect.


Source: The Center for Women in Television & Film, San Diego State University

How Long Do We Have to Wait?

 

Women represent roughly half of the global population. Our contributions to the box office success of “Barbie” remind us how hungry we are to see reflections of ourselves out in the world. How important women’s stories are – to keep us striving to fulfill our greatest potential. We all always need a bit of inspiration – to imitate art until it resembles life itself.

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Barbie and Women's Representation in Film
Source 7: Barbie the Movie
Barbie and Women's Representation in Film
Source 8: Getty/Alamy

THIS JUST IN: Snubs and Surprises for “Barbie” at the Oscars?

Oscar nominations for the 2024 Academy Awards have been announced. To the chagrin of many, Greta Gerwig did not receive a nomination for Best Director, and her film partner Margot Robbie did not get a nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role. “Barbie” co-star America Ferrera did get recognized with a nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Congrats America!

Source: Rolling Stone & Variety

Questions to Our Readers

Did “Barbie” the film clear the path toward gender parity in the film industry? Or have we all just experienced the unicorn of Hollywood? Do the outcomes of industry awards shows truly dictate the future of women, both on and off the camera?

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