Barbie is NOT a feel-good movie for all women.

Not even all CIS women.

If you or anyone in your family has any level of impairment, the movie is another reminder of why you have to fight so much harder to be seen as an equal.

Even though there were multiple ‘diverse Barbies’ made, not a single one was:

  • included in the core four Barbies who made it into the movie.
  • referred to in any of the ‘inspiring lines’ in the movie.
  • given an equal space in Barbie World.

Which is exactly how it is in real life.

Real-life Challenges Mirrored in Barbie’s World?

Speaking from the perspective of my own challenges, I have lost count how many times I’ve been impacted because:

  • Another course I have bought is purely video based, no closed captions or transcripts provided.
  • An event the organiser says they want me to attend is taking place in an upstairs room, with no lift, or you’re expected to pay five times as much for your ticket to sit at the front where you can hear,
  • Public bathroom designers made everything in the space white, so I can’t make out where the doors are.

If you or someone you love is disabled, I’m sure you have loads of your own examples you can add, too.

We are often, “Afterthought Barbie” or “No Thought Barbie”.

Pink background with a graphic of Barbie and her suitcase, and Barbie in her wheelchair, overlaid with the text, 'The Barbie Movie and the Disabled. Are They Represented Fairly?'

Questionable Barbie Representations

A few people have argued that the inclusion of a Barbie in a wheelchair and a Barbie with a prosthetic arm means that disabled people ARE fairly represented in the movie.

“Wheelchair Barbie” is featured for a few moments, centre stage on the dance floor.

“Prosthetic Arm Barbie” is the Aide to “President Barbie”.

The dance floor moment feels like Tokenism, and “Aide Barbie” feels like the message is that disabled people have limits of what we can expect to achieve in life.

Imagine how much more impactful the message could have been if “President Barbie” was “Prosthetic Arm Barbie”?!  

As a hypothetical comparison, if the movie’s cast was entirely made up of Kens, aside from two appearances from Barbie: the Aide to President Ken and a moment on the dancefloor that is otherwise filled with ‘Kens’, I doubt people would agree Barbie was equally represented in that line up.

Yet that’s what we are being asked to accept as fairly representing the disabled community,

Ideal Representation vs Hollywood’s Bias

According to the World Health Organisation, 16% of the population is disabled.

‘Equal representation’ in the movie would be that 1 of 6 main characters is disabled.

There are four main Barbie characters, so adding two more to the line-up is probably too ambitious.

Missed Opportunities for Empowering Disabled Characters?

I also understand this is Hollywood, where ‘good looking’ people bring better box office receipts.

Realistically, one single spoken line could have done so, SO much good.

Take Barbie’s imposter syndrome conversation, for example… 

She could have had imposter syndrome compared to, “Blind Barbie”, who is the CEO of her own brand, even though she uses a screen reader to speak documents and contracts to her.

Or “Deaf Barbie”, who is a millionaire performer, even though she can’t hear the music and making a name for herself as an inspirational performer of ‘silent dances’ too”. 

Or “Wheelchair Barbie,” who is a catwalk model and making a difference by getting the real world to add more ramps so her and her “Glam Squad” can go more places”. 

That would have gone such a long way to help our differently abled young (and not so young) people feel good about their contribution to society too.

But nope.

‘Weird’ is as diverse as you can be in Barbie world.

My Overall Verdict is the Barbie Movie is Worth a Watch.

Taken at face value, it is candy fluff, frothy, fun.

It’s pink heaven: the fashion is cute, the car is dreamy, and the music is uplifting.

I’m also grateful for the publicity efforts behind the massive popularity of the movie because it’s created an opportunity to initiate and engage in this conversation with the wider population.

Do You Agree?

It’s not always easy for people who are not disabled to grasp how frustrating and exhausting it is to be “Afterthought” and “No Thought” Barbie every day.

And it’s often not easy to broach that conversation at all.

So, if you’re excited to see the film, please don’t let me put you off.

I invite you to watch the Barbie movie through the lens of disability equality and consider for yourself how diverse the movie is.

If you’re already tired of fighting every day for you and/or your family to be considered as an equal in the “real world,” you may want to take this post as a trigger warning.

And if you have already seen the new Barbie movie, I’d love to hear your viewpoint.

Please leave a comment below.

 

Veronica Pullen wearing a pink gilet over a pink jumper, posing in front of the hotel room door ahead of going to watch the Barbie Movie on Friday 21st July 2023

Me wearing my pink attire, ahead of seeing the Barbie Movie on Friday 21st July 2023

Veronica Pullen

Veronica Pullen

The Mile-Deep Marketing Queen at Apples to Oranges Ltd
Veronica Pullen, AKA The MIle-Deep Marketing Queen helps coaches, trainers, consultants, mentors, experts, speakers, and therapists to attract your ideal, like-minded clients from your 'Mile-Deep' Facebook marketing, networking, group challenges, and ads.
Veronica Pullen
Veronica Pullen