What’s most shocking about this lineup is how utterly subversive it feels. In terms of male leads alone, “Barbie” is a revelation. Many moons have passed since Ryan Gosling became the internet’s first boyfriendbut there was a time when his appeal was not nearly so universal. Even now, he’s not everyone’s first choice to play Barbie’s hunky leading man; early reactions to his platinum blonde look are split right down the middle. And though Simu Liu shares Gosling’s action figure physique, he too has become an “unlikely” heartthrob in his own right. In fact, none of Gerwig’s male leads are exactly synonymous with the Hemsworthian ideal — but that’s exactly what makes their respective roles in the upcoming film so exciting.
It’s pretty clear that Gerwig is looking to bring a fresh perspective to a time-honored franchise. Whether the film does take on a fish-out-of-water storyline (à la “Life Size”) or opts for a retelling in the vein of the forthcoming “Buzz Lightyear” movie, it won’t be the first to take the Barbie world in a new direction. The brand has been pivoting toward healthier representation for years now, despite the lingering image of the stick-skinny dolls most of us grew up with. From Barbie’s vlog series — where she unpacks everything from the sorry reflex to systemic racism — to the brand’s growing line of body-positive dollsBarbie has definitely been made over for the better.
Even before Gerwig boarded the project, inclusion was a must for Mattel Films. In 2019, executive producer Robbie Brenner pledged that “Barbie” would boast as diverse a cast as possible, and with the way things have shaped up since, it seems their commitment was genuine. It’d have been easy for the “Barbie” movie to return into a mindless cash grab, given the enduring popularity of the IP in question. But Mattel’s smart, strategic choices have maneuvered the film into very unique territory. With Greta Gerwig (and her partner and co-writer Noah Baumbach) calling the shots, “Barbie” is poised to be one of the biggest summer blockbusters of 2023 — a tough feat for a world now dominated by one franchise at a time.