Barbie Empowering Dreams on the Big Screen: The Worldwide Success of Greta Gerwig’s Barbie

by Liz Keating '24 on November 4, 2023
A&E Staff

Arts & Entertainment

Barbie, the iconic doll that has been a symbol of beauty and female empowerment for generations, has made her way from toy store shelves to the silver screen with resounding success. The live action Barbie, released in July 2023, has not only captured the hearts of audiences worldwide but has also shattered box office records, proving that Barbie’s appeal extends far beyond her plastic form. Barbie has made more than 612 million U.S. dollars at the North American box office, garnering a total of 1.34 billion U.S. dollars worldwide, thereby making Greta Gerwig the first solo female director in history to surpass one million dollars at the box office. 

Barbie has been a treasured companion to countless girls for decades, fostering their imaginations and teaching them about fashion, careers, and the possibilities of their dreams. Barbie has influenced generations of children, and her effect on popular culture cannot be emphasized enough. The Barbie movie capitalized brilliantly on this nostalgia. It transported viewers into a magical world where Barbie comes to life, rekindling the sense of wonder and imagination that the doll has instilled in generations of children. The film’s storyline is not merely about fashion and glamor; it is about empowerment, friendship, and the importance of staying true to oneself.

Beyond its compelling cast and storyline, Barbie was a visual spectacle. It spared no expense in creating a visually captivating world, from Barbie’s dream house to the magical settings where her adventures unfolded. The film had  a reported budget of 145 million dollars to create the magic that is Barbie Land. The attention to detail, vibrant colors, and dazzling outfits transported viewers into a realm of enchantment and wonder..

The previously-established Barbie brand was instrumental in the film’s promotion. The marketing synergy was easy and effective, with everything from Barbie themed clothing lines to limited-edition dolls related to the film’s debut. Barbie‘s multifaceted marketing strategy ensured that she remained a household name and an enduring symbol of empowerment. Paul Dergarabedian, a senior marketing executive at Comscore, says “The marketing campaign for Barbie set into motion a chain of events that led to the word ‘Barbenheimer’ being added to the popular lexicon by virtue of its shared release date with Oppenheimer, and that’s when we all knew something very special and unique was going to create a much bigger than expected outcome for the film not only for the opening weekend, but for its global run in theaters.”

The impact of the Barbie film went beyond the box office. It sparked debates on gender norms, body image, and the necessity of encouraging young girls to pursue their interests and dreams. The film sparked crucial discussions between parents and children, educators and students, and society as a whole. Barbie is shown as a confident and capable protagonist who still maintains her femininity, which challenges established gender stereotypes. This portrayal was a welcome change from the docile, one-dimensional female characters that are so common in media. Through its engaging storyline, talented cast, stunning visuals, and commitment to diversity,  Barbie proved that Barbie is not just a doll; she is an enduring symbol of empowerment, and her influence continues to inspire and uplift girls around the world.