Header illustration: Melissa Mathieson for Polygon
You’ve seen her on shelves all over the globe — the over-large eyes, glossy blond hair, pale skin, impossibly slim waist and legs, and arched feet. Barbies have been popular for seven decades now, with numerous series celebrating different professions, Disney movie princesses, and more. The doll has also become a popular character in video games, television shows, webseries, and movies.
Barbie’s cultural influence is indisputable; people still buy the dolls today. She’s a trailblazer with numerous careers, which helped young girls dream of their own futures at a time when women weren’t often welcomed into certain spaces. But Barbie’s influence also hasn’t always been positive. Over the years, her design has been criticized for pushing unrealistic beauty standards, and for reinforcing thin, white women as a beauty ideal.
Greta Gerwig’s Barbie movie — which will be released July 21 in a double-feature showdown on the same day as Oppenheimer — is the perfect excuse to ask: What does Barbie look like in 2023? Where has she been, and what has she meant to fans over the years?