The Barbie movie has whipped the entire world into a neon pink frenzy, which is being hailed as a triumph of feminism. But is it? Join me (AKA Menopause Barbie) & feminist shero Dr Natalie Jovanovski (AKA Chin Hair Barbie) as we dissect this complex juggernaut!

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Show Transcript 

welcome to all fired up. I’m Louise your host and this is the podcast where we talk all things anti diet. Has diet culture got you in a fit of rage is the injustice of the beauty ideal getting your knickers in a twist? Does Fitspo make you want to spit tspo? Are you ready to hurl if you hear one more weight loss tip? Are you ready to be mad, loud and proud? Well, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s get all fired up. Welcome back diet culture drop out. So today I’ve got an amazing chat with Dr. Nat Jovanovski, all about the Barbie movie. And we’re going to pop on our feminist thinking caps, and dive into all of the complicated feelings I’ve had after watching it. But first of all, if you love us here on all fired up, please help us spread the word by going to Spotify or Apple podcasts. And please leave us a really wonderful five star rating and a review if you have the time. The more we get the word out about all fired up, the more likely it is we can topple diet culture and live happily ever after. And of course, if you haven’t yet subscribed to the podcast, please follow us so you don’t miss out on a single exquisite rant as they pop out weekly. Now free stuff. There is a brand new version of my eBook everything you’ve been told about weight loss is bullshit by me and the wonderful anti diet dietitian Dr. Fi Willer. In the April we’re going to bust the top 10 myths that float around diet culture, all those things that we never question about the relationship between weight and health. It’s now been completely updated. And I’ve included some myth busting about weight loss drugs, which is something I really needed to do and it feels great to get it in there. So please go download it, read it and share it widely with everyone you know, friends, family members, medical and health professionals. Whoever you think might benefit, just head to the website and it will pop up or you can go to Insta at untrapped_au and click on the link in the bio Knowledge is power my friends. The all fired up podcast is brought to you by our brand new untrapped Academy, a superb oasis of anti diet information skills training and support. We’ve got some amazing anti diet speakers and topics that are already waiting for you. So people like Dianne Bondy, Christy Harrison, Sabrina Strings, Ragen Chastain Fi Sutherland Sofie Hagen, Chrissy King, E-K Daufin, Lacey Jade Christie, Ash Gillon, Fi Willer, and Megan Crabbe Last we have talks and skills training sessions coming to you regularly. Plus, there’s talks and skills training sessions on things like regular eating your body story and binge eating. And we’re adding new topics and new stuff all the time. In August. We’re just wrapping up a really interesting series on advocating for weight inclusive health care with Dr. Porter Predny, who is an Aussie GP speaking on the topic. Plus, we have this really awesome skills training session with Ragen Chastain, where she helped us to create really practical strategies to help navigate your trips to the doctor. It’s been amazing and so useful. Join us your first month is just one Ozzy dollar so you’ve got nothing to lose, go to and check us out. Before we get on with today’s episode, I need to issue an overdose of pink warning because we’re talking about Barbie the movie and also there’s spoilers by the way, so if you haven’t seen it, Please be warned. And of course, this doll herself is a massive trigger. So please make your own decision about whether or not hearing this material is safe for you. Your mental health is really important. Okay, so before we get on with the show and go and debrief with our incredible guest, feminist author and Trailblazer Nat Jovanovski. I’m just going to do a quick overview to help us understand the history of Barbie Mattel, and also how this movie came about. So we’ve all heard of Barbie dolls. Barbies were launched in the United States in 1959. And for decades, Barbie ruled the doll market with over a billion sales. But over the years, Barbie has thankfully struggled to stay relevant. And of course, there’s a really long history with Barbie of spreading harmful stereotypes. About womanhood. I remember in the 1990s teen talk Barbie sparked backlash over its ditzy declaration that math classes are tough. By the 2010s, the doll was pretty much yesterday’s news and sales were really at their lowest point in 25 years into Richard Dickson, the CEO of Mattel. And yes, this is a man with not one but two dicks in his name, who presided over the rebranding of the Barbie empire. After all the critiques of Barbies impossible proportions. Since 2016, Barbie has been sold in petite, tall and curvy versions, and the Barbie designers have tried to really expand options available in terms of race, ethnicity, and able bodied nearness, and it seems that this strategy has worked largely in 2020, Mattel sold $1.35 billion worth of Barbie dolls and accessories. And this was their best sales growth in 20 years. So as you no doubt know, the Barbie movie, it has been a bit of a cultural phenomenon and a massive money making machine. It debuted in the US on the 21st of July 2023, to a $162 million opening weekend. And when it was released here in Australia, it made 21 million in one weekend. So all of that money really surpasses it’s $146 million production budget. Box Office Pro, which is a magazine that covers the film industry estimates that the film is tracking to hit somewhere between 400 to 425 million in the USA alone by the end of its run in the theaters. And if this is true, that will put the film among the highest grossing movies of 2023. So far, the Barbie movie has been a long time coming back in 2009, Mattel announced that it had signed a partnership to develop the project with Universal Pictures. But of course, nothing really happened from that. In 2014, Mattel teamed up with Sony Pictures to produce the film and they wrote a screenplay. And in December 2016, Amy Schumer entered negotiations to become Barbie, and she helped rewrite the script with her sister Kim Karamale. But in March 2017, Amy Schumer pulled out at the time she said that there were scheduling conflicts with the planned filming, but in 2023, so just recently, she spilled the real tea quote, I definitely didn’t want to do it the way I wanted to do it. The only way I was interested in doing it, she says Amy Schumer had written Barbie in as an ambitious inventor, but apparently the studio asked that her invention be a high heeled shoe made of JellO. Amy Schumer said that she was sent a pair of Manolo Blahniks the shoes to celebrate, quote, the idea that that’s just what every woman must want right there. I should have gone you’ve got the wrong gal. So Amy was out. And then the next proposed Barbie was supposed to be Anne Hathaway, and Sony once again rewrote the screenplay, but this didn’t go anywhere. And eventually Sony’s rights to make the film expired in October 2018. In September 2018, the new CEO of Mattel in Nan crites created a division called Mattel films. Rights onboarded Margot Robbie crites believed looked a lot like stereotypical Barbie and apparently he was, quote, impressed by her ideas. And then Director Greta Gerwig came on board thanks to Margo and I guess the rest is history. In the conversation with Nat you will hear me say that Mattel paid for the Barbie film. And this actually isn’t totally accurate. Things aren’t that simple. Warner Brothers paid to make the movie and they have the distribution rights. But it’s 100% abundantly clear that the entire project is a business deal for Mattel. They’re intricately tied in multiple ways to the finance of this movie. The marketing budget for the film is rumored to be $150 million more than it costs to make it. Mattel insisted the films aren’t designed to boost toy sales, but I’m calling bullshit on that. A $50 Margot Robbie Barbie doll which was unveiled in June, it’s already sold out. So has a $75 model of stereotypical Barbies pink Corvette, and as we all know, there’s been massive brand collaborations, yielding just a glut of Barbie themed offerings Barbie candles Barbie luggage, frozen yogurt. Mattel have literally made me I’ve seen the film cash cow for them through hundreds of licensing agreements. So Mattel don’t even have to pay a lot for their own marketing. Barbie branded roller skates, for example, are paid for by the Roller Skate Company and not Mattel. They just have to pay Mattel for the rights to use the logo. Mattel engineered a massive, massive global marketing campaign with lots of stunts like the real life Barbie Dream House, which is on Airbnb. A good way of thinking of this is like the Lego Movie, Lego made stacks of cash from selling their IP on merch from interest generated from the movie. This revived their brand and really transformed their business. Of course, it’s deliberate. Mattel, Theo crites told a journalist that his vision in reviving the brand quote was that we need to transition from being a toy manufacturing company making items to an IP company managing franchises. So that’s really telling. And of course, crites definitely wanted to make sure that in the making of this movie, Barbie wasn’t negatively depicted, quote, Barbie is aspirational, inspirational, not something you want to turn into a parody, he said. Everyone involved in the film says that Mattel really didn’t get a say in what went into it. But historically, this is a company which is quite protective of its brand. Its legal team once went after a company that tried to sell Barbie to chips. In 1997, Mattel famously sued MCA Records over the Aqua song Barbie Girl, which was a Euro pop parody that had a line in it like I’m a blonde bimbo girl in a fantasy world, and judge ruled against Mattel concluding the parties are advised to chill. So, back to Deke Dixon. He was apparently very excited to work with writer and director, Greta Gerwig, but also nervous about potentially damaging the brand. Apparently, he went to London where the film was largely shot more than six times spending days on the set, and having really long discussions about the doll and the history of Barbie. And apparently, he flew into London specifically to hear dialogue from the script, which he was worried about. And this is a really interesting part that he was worried about, because it’s the bit where America Ferreira is shouting at Barbie, for reinforcing unrealistic beauty ideals and damaging girls sense of self esteem. Apparently, Margot Robbie told a journalist from The New Yorker, that this conversation was six hours long. Of course, the Saints stayed in as it bloody should have. But I would say that that’s not exactly hands off creative control from Dick Dixon. Let’s keep this background in mind as we go and talk with my guest this week. The fierce and ferocious Dr. Natalie joven offski. She has previously appeared on the podcast in a really cool episode early on about Michelle Bridges and Australian fitness influencer. Dr. Natalie joven Oski is Vice Chancellors senior research fellow at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. Her research has explored the socio cultural factors that shape women’s relationships with food, how women challenge diet culture in their everyday lives. A current research is interrogating the meaning of healthy eating from a relational sociology lens. I have been busting to talk to Nat about Barbie so without further ado, here we go. Natalie, thank you so much for coming on the show. Speaker 2 14:05 It’s such a pleasure to be here. I think I need to steal you and bring you to Melbourne learn. Louise Adams 14:11 So they’re so tell me what is firing you up? Speaker 2 14:16 What is firing me up at the moment is the very uncritical conversations I’m hearing about Barbie. So in some respects, I’m hearing lots and lots of different conversations about Barbie lots of different polarizing conversations about Barbie. But there’s one particular Barbie that I think is missing and hopefully we can chat about that today. There is Louise Adams 14:39 not a single human being on the planet that I wanted to talk to more after seeing the Barbie movie than you like it felt. It felt like to me years ago when you came on the podcast to tell me why Miss Michelle Bridges sucks. That feminist deconstruction deconstruction of her was just a breath of fresh air and So I knew you were the person that I needed to talk to, because I had complicated feelings after seeing this movie. And yeah, so what what a I mean, I don’t even know where to start. I mean, part of me, really liked the Barbie movie. Me too. Speaker 2 15:15 Me too. I really enjoyed it. And I’m gonna do a little reflexivity statement at the beginning of this and a huge confession, okay. As a child, I was a tomboy. I was often mistaken for a boy, people would say, Oh, you’ve got two sons to my mom. She’d be like, No, actually, I have a daughter and a son. So I was very, very, I shun femininity. But the one thing that I had was Barbies. And I absolutely loved Barbie dolls. Right? Yeah. Five and had Hollywood hair Barbie used to spray her long hair and some bits of it would turn pink. Louise Adams 15:51 Ah. Speaker 2 15:53 And I begged my mother for that on my sixth birthday. And I ended up drinking some of that liquid. And I remember going to my mom and saying, man, what would happen if I drank some of this liquid and she said, Stop drinking the liquid and I just didn’t drink. But I loved loved loved Barbie. As a child. I didn’t see any problem with her. She was pretty doll. And I really enjoyed this movie as well. Like, there were lots and lots of really funny bits in it. It was funny as a movie, and had really nice themes that like female autonomy, for example, the contradictions had been the woman. Yeah, the themes of that. There was also things that female solidarity, you know, what happens when women come together and organize, to take on the patriarchy? Yes. And I thought those are really lovely things. And they made me laugh, and they were funny. But there was also sort of more about for me, it was more around the ideal of Barbie. You know, what does Barbie represent to women? Yeah. Do we want more? Oh, Louise Adams 17:04 yes. I mean, some of the themes were so heartwarming and so beautifully for it. And it’s just, it’s, it just felt like a bit of a relief to be acknowledged that this is like, pretty hard to be female. Yeah, world with ideals like Barbie. But yeah, I just kind of felt increased. And as the days went on and on, I started to feel a little bit gaslit by some of the things that had been suggested to me by the movie, and I also, honestly, I feel quite deeply ashamed for not loving it more. And I’m finding it hard to talk about with anyone, which is why I’m so relieved to talk about it with you. Speaker 2 17:48 Well, you knew I was going to be a grumpy little. Bernie Sanders wearing a face mask in that cinema. And, and I must confess, I walked in there, ready to be grumpy? Yes, me too. And I thought I was going to be grumpier, but I wasn’t but then in the days since then, a lot like your experience, there are questions that we need to ask about this figure. And whether or not we should have more like, you know, the idea of a Barbie matriarchy, for example, Barbie land in the movie that, Louise Adams 18:22 yes, the matriarchy Speaker 2 18:24 and the way that that’s presented. It’s presented as the matriarchy. So for example, the Ken is the accessory to Barbie. He doesn’t have as much of a personhood as Barbie has Barbie is the President Barbie is in all these big legal positions. Barbie is the doctor Barbie is anything that she wants to be in Barbie land. And she but for some reason, despite all her power. She still dresses like a Stepford wife or face covered in makeup. Louise Adams 18:59 Yeah, and obsessed with clothes and fashion. And with always having to wear high heels. Speaker 2 19:05 Yeah, her feet are sort of permanently on a slant and it’s like, why when I think of the matriarchy, not that I even want a matriarchy. But when I think of a matriarchy, I think of chin has been abundant. Louise Adams 19:20 Comfortable shoes. Speaker 2 19:23 Absolutely. I think of like, you know, cellulite being free and I don’t think of us walking around as Stepford Wives. That’s not what comes into my head. Louise Adams 19:34 Yeah, that is a really good point. And I think a matriarchy, too. I don’t know. I also think Barbie land is a bit weird that I didn’t see many older Barbies. You know, there’s also like Stepford Wives like in that moment of like, you know, maybe a five year period, but there was still a lot of the sameness about Barbie land. That was yes. Even though you know, they came in a few Different colors and flavors. Yeah, it wasn’t a lot of difference. And I remember it’s interesting when you say that when you’re a little you loved Barbie when I was a little kid, I also loved Barbie because like there was nothing else to do in the 1980s. And but I’m I always had a complicated relationship with Barbie because there was a blonde Barbie and a brunette Barbie, but there weren’t any like, frankly, redheaded Barbies. So I never felt like ever felt like I existed in a Barbie kind of way. Like, I never felt like you know, when people talk about representation, I know it’s like a really different thing to being because you never saw an Asian Barbie, or a black Barbie or a you know, a larger bodied Barbie. But I kind of felt othered from Barbie land, dot and I saw that in the Barbie land that was represented in the movie Speaker 2 20:54 did try to sort of add a lot of diversity or some diversity to the Barbies. And I guess that’s a nod to what Mattel has been doing over the last decade or so trying to diversify representations of Barbie. And I think that’s speaking directly to the idea that diversity sells, you know, in the last sort of couple of years, especially, marketers have really been really been playing that card. But as they you know, there’s no old Barbie. Louise Adams 21:25 There’s no way. There’s no Barbie, but it’s menopause Barbie. Speaker 2 21:32 Well, they kind of say like, oh, this Midge, but she was really quickly discontinued, and Mitch was the pregnant Barbie. And I remember as a kid, I really wanted a pregnant Barbie. I was like, Oh, it’s a pregnant Barbie. Louise Adams 21:43 Yeah, and there’s no babies or anything in Barbie that I mean nothing. Women have to have babies that like matriarch ease. Yeah. And I understand that they would include child rearing. Speaker 2 21:54 Yes, absolutely. Yeah. And not for everyone, but like they would be there. And yeah, they would at least present. Ah, Louise Adams 22:05 yeah, I don’t know. And I want to tell you, Mike 3am Wake up and I realized what it was, which was the couple of days after Barbie, I just need to confess this to you. I’m wondering why, at the end of the movie, Barbie chose to leave the matriarchy, and to go live in the patriarchy. And instead of overthrowing the patriarchy, which you think with all of her skills from Barbie land that she would have. She chose to go and get a vagina. Yeah, I’m bothered by that. Speaker 2 22:40 It was a curious choice, wasn’t it? I think that the way that I read it was Barbie is not a Human Barbie is like an ideal of womanhood. She’s the career woman. She’s also conventionally beautiful. She’s this she’s that she’s embodying all these different things that are actually pretty difficult for an everyday woman or a real woman to embody. So when Barbie does come into the real world, she starts getting objectified. She starts to see herself through the eyes of men and actually through the eyes of others in general. And I think bringing Barbie into the real world really highlights that she’s not a real person. But yes, but wants to be. Yes. Ah, Louise Adams 23:27 it is so complicated, isn’t it? But I think Speaker 2 23:29 we should do? Well, I think that’s why she ends up coming to the real world because if you look at I was looking at research on Barbie before this podcast, and they did some pretty interesting research on Barbie in the 90s in particular, so some researchers looked at like Barbies proportions and how realistic they are to the everyday woman. And one set of researchers found that Barbies proportions are found in one in 100,000 women. Wow. And 10s proportions are found in one in 50 men Louise Adams 24:04 and a plastic amount Surely not. Speaker 2 24:07 I think the plastic mount No, but Barbie to be real as well the female body would need to increase by 24 inches in height, five inches in the chest area and a six inch decrease in the waist. So even if you’re living in a matriarchy, and you got to hold on to those standards and kind of see why she’d want to come and join us in the real world. Why would you want to hold on to those standards? Louise Adams 24:39 But you know Barbie came from the real world and I’ve got a fun Barbie fact here which upset me. So you know Ruth hand handler who was the creator of Barbie, she apparently based Barbie of a German doll which was called the Lilly, which was a gag gift based on a prostitute was which was handed out at bachelorette parties. Unknown Speaker 25:03 Oh my God, that’s Louise Adams 25:04 how they got the proportions. Speaker 2 25:06 Well, you know what’s interesting about that fact, as I was watching Barbie, and looking at some of the Barbie doll, and when it was produced, doesn’t the Barbie look really similar to what Playboy centerfolds look like in the 50s? Louise Adams 25:21 It like yes, where you can really see that kind of thing. And like, I just want to be clear with everyone listening, I am not anti prostitute here, just like this very sexualized for is explicit. And part of the design. She is designed to be pleasing initially to men, Speaker 2 25:43 and yet marketed to little girls Oh, marketed to grown men as a sexualized object of affection. And marketed to little girls. As a fun play time. Louise Adams 25:57 Yeah. This this is, you know, I read somewhere that this is Barbie tells women like how to be women, basically. And that is just kind of actually terrifying. Yes, yeah. If this is if this is what we’re being, like, I mean, this is darker, isn’t it? It’s darker than the idea of just playing with a doll. This is about telling women how to be female, and what’s what’s expected of women. Speaker 2 26:27 Yes, absolutely. And you see that in some of the studies that have come out about Phil’s interacting with Barbies, and the effect that that has on their body dissatisfaction, and their internalization of the thin ideal as well. So some of the research shows that it tends to be younger girls, so five, six years old, who tend to be more affected by Barbies. So in one study deals five to eight were exposed to Barbie with younger girls who played with the doll reporting lower body esteem and greater desire for a thinner body shape than the control group and the other exposure condition. So Louise Adams 27:05 it’s, yeah, I mean, that is, you know, as a psychologist, that it’s funny, like, when I studied back in the 1990s, we looked at Barbie and we looked at that was my first exposure to learning that playing with these things has a direct correlation with low body esteem in girls. So it’s Barbie, it is this site, this is doll has never been a safe place for women, or girls. And, you know, our body esteem is by no means a small part of our psychological health. Our body is staying can affect our whole sense of self, as little girls and as women and as someone who works with eating disorders all the time, and this sort of stuff is really in the mix as to what goes into making us feel like we’re not okay. Speaker 2 28:00 Yeah, absolutely. I agree entirely. I think it’s also interesting that people while I’m not noticing this anyway, people are not really making a connection between the harms of dieting, and diet culture, and some of the issues associated with beauty practices in general. Yeah, yeah. So I feel like that’s why sometimes I’m seeing people celebrating the diversity of Barbies in terms of like Louise Adams 28:26 putting diversity in air quotes there Speaker 2 28:30 it’s in hard efforts by the diversity in air quotes of Barbie you know say all the Barbie comes in a larger body now, with Barbie still covered in makeup and her leg is still bare feet are still slanted and like, are we not connecting that with him? Thai culture? Really? Louise Adams 28:56 Okay. Yeah, yeah, so it’s like, I mean, diverse ethnic curvy Barbie was 2019 Was she really thought she was. There was a study released in 2019 girls aged between three and 10 were interviewed about the curvy Barbie. That was the one they wanted to play with the least. Yeah. So you know, if they had all of Arby’s there, they wanted to play with the so called curvy body the least. So that’s showing us the girls as young as three have this internalized preference for smaller bodied adults. Yeah. Oh, so upsetting. Absolutely. I was talking to Liam V. A couple of weeks ago who is a plus size Muslim black model. And after we finished recording we were talking a little about a Barbie movie and she was saying how the suppose the size diversity in the Barbie movie really upset her because she said Firstly, there was only a couple of really large body Barbies that we saw in Barbie land, and they were dressed down friendly to The Stepford wife Barbie versions. So, yes, I didn’t even pick this up. But of course, like she did, she said they had their shoulders covered there in cardigans. And of course, you know, there was no kind of speaking part or kind of important role. These are like filler Barbies, literally. Speaker 2 30:19 Yeah, yes. And you know what I never even noticed. I noticed one larger body Barbie. I did notice that she was dressed differently to everyone else, actually. Now that I think about it, but I didn’t notice any other larger body bodies. Louise Adams 30:33 I think they were like, literally maybe one or two, just just sprinkling nothing like to represent, you know, planet Earth, where 60% of people are in that place. And quite a lot of us aren’t like young either. So, Speaker 2 30:46 but isn’t this very accurate of the whole phenomenon of Barbie? I mean, it’s a it’s a consumerist. It’s a capitalist construction of Louise Adams 30:56 of ideal. womanhood. Yeah. And womanhood of Yeah. And Speaker 2 31:01 so it’s always going to feed us crumbs rather than the whole cake. It’s like, Here you go. Here’s some diversity in air quotes. Here’s a smidgen of diversity, just to shut you up. And that’s you get Louise Adams 31:16 you have it, the focus will still be on the Margot Robbie Barbie. Speaker 2 31:20 On the stereotypical Barbie. That’s what they call her. I think in the movie, the stereotypical Barbie. Yeah, Louise Adams 31:24 yeah. Yeah. So diversity is a Support Act. Speaker 2 31:29 And I just say, though, did you identify with weird Barbie because I really did. Louise Adams 31:34 Totally, I’m sorry if my kid was so proud. Speaker 2 31:39 I mean, just everything about her. And the fact that she had like all this paint on her face. Louise Adams 31:44 That’s how my Barbies looked like I gave them all haircuts and drew on their faces. Unknown Speaker 31:51 Well, you actually played with the doll, which is good. Louise Adams 31:53 I did. I mean, she used to go for drives in her car and her camper van and I even had the shitting dog. Actually, Unknown Speaker 32:00 no, you have the shooting doll. Louise Adams 32:03 I did. I love the Shooting dog. Speaker 2 32:05 I had the camper van. Hmm. That was such an amazing thing, getting that camper van as the kid as a little working class kid, working class family. Louise Adams 32:17 And I imagined having a camper van. But yeah, so this is this is how even when we talk about this, we’ve got all these kinds of cute little like, we can say these aspects of our little girl selves. Yeah, having adventures with camper vans or pulling dogs. Or I remember the elevator in the dream house. Like, it’s what she was doing. But then like this whole time, we’re just absorbing like tiny little sponges. This is what Barbie looks like, you know, it’s important for her to look like this and to have this stuff. Speaker 2 32:49 To think that that feeling that we have? Do you think that the feeling that a lot of women have about Barbie is actually a sense of ambivalence, because there are things that we enjoy about Barbie. And there are things that we really, really don’t. But isn’t that life as a woman? Like I mean, so is it? I did, I did research with women, just recently, just the last three years looking at why they’ve rejected diet culture and how they did it. Excellent. And one of the things that came up really strongly was the strong sense of ambivalence about diet culture, because on the one hand, there were enjoyable things about it, which is why women were doing it, they were getting some sort of social reward from it, or, you know, they were getting something positive from it. But at the same time, it had this really, really, overwhelmingly negative impact on their lives. And so even when women were saying, No, I reject this, I’m not going to weigh myself anymore. I’m not going to dye it anymore. I’m going to get involved in with these communities of women to have alternative messages about my body. There was still a sense of ambivalence that was like, oh, but sometimes I feel like I should go back to dieting. Louise Adams 34:00 Yes. Yeah, I hear that a lot, too. Yeah. And is that just Speaker 2 34:05 is that just an inevitable feature of living in a diet infused beauty obsessed? femininity, culture? Louise Adams 34:14 I think so. I mean, it’s like it’s like literally the dream, right? If, if you are pretty enough and wear the right clothes, and have all the right things in place, Speaker 2 34:26 you win. Yeah. And women say that they experience glimmers of that, you know, like one woman said that she got such a, she got 10 seconds of a positive feeling, engaging in diet culture, because she looked down and her belly was flat. And then then she went back to not feeling good about herself. But I think that that is such a strong message of what it feels like to be a woman in a world that constructs you as different, like Louise Adams 34:59 Yeah, Word bread crumb like earlier when you said it’s bread crumbing us in psychology, there’s this thing called intermittent reinforcement with pigeons, for example, if they if they press a little lever in the cage, and every now and again, they get a bread crumb, they’ll keep pressing that lever with weight don’t know when the reward is coming. We will keep trying to get it. Yes, yeah. And so I think maybe there’s an element of that going on in Thai culture, if every now and again, we get a reward, like, we wake up, and we have a fleeting feeling that our bodies, okay, we’ll keep trying to belong to it, it would be easy. And I sometimes think that for people who never have that experience, for example of having a flat stomach, I think some some circumstances that can be simpler. I’m not saying at all, because there’s all of the structural and real life oppression that happens when you’re trying to navigate as a larger bodied person, especially if there’s more intersections. But if you don’t get that kind of glimmer, like if you’re if you’re kind of categorically out of dichotomous approval bucket, there’s a simplicity there. Whereas if you kind of whoa, I’m just kind of young enough to make the cut. Maybe it’ll get better Botox, I’ll get some dopamine from a compliment. I think it’s harder. And I think, you know, for me personally, as becoming like, more postmenopausal I think it’s easier. Unknown Speaker 36:33 That’s really fascinating. Louise Adams 36:34 I really do find it in many ways easier to like, be fine to get harder to kind of pass the test of whatever the hill diet culture expects of younger women. Unknown Speaker 36:45 Yeah, it doesn’t make you sad, though, that we fed crumbs. Louise Adams 36:50 It’s very fucking angry. Speaker 2 36:55 And that, like, we celebrate that, because it does bring some sort of temporary positive, but give me the damn cake. I don’t want the crumbs anymore. I want the full blown revolution. Louise Adams 37:10 That’s right. And I think that’s what disappointed me when I woke up and realized that Barbie wasn’t kind of gunning for a revolution. She wanted it for China. Speaker 2 37:24 We ever expect that from a Barbie? I don’t think we can. She’s not the figure that’s going to bring us to a revolution. Louise Adams 37:31 Uh huh. That’s true. What did you think of the treatment of Mattel in the movie? Speaker 2 37:36 Oh, that’s interesting. I hadn’t really thought about that. Well, they bagged Mattel quite a lot in the movie. Like they mock the all male board of directors. They joke about the lack of diversity in Mattel, but doesn’t change. No, it doesn’t. Louise Adams 37:57 It doesn’t even come back as the head of Mattel. But know that sense? Speaker 2 38:02 That’s a really interesting point, actually. I mean, they don’t succeed in putting her back in her box. But you’re right, she doesn’t come back as any sort of director or anything Louise Adams 38:14 is not in power in any way shape, or form. Which is true. And maybe it would have been seemed I don’t know, simplistic to kind of come back and like Will Ferrell becomes her secretary. But all that would have been hilarious. It just made me wonder about Brett and go and weeds. How much choice she had. To You know Speaker 2 38:35 what, though? I actually don’t think that would have worked. Because in real life. That’s not happening. Yeah, that’s true. That’s depressing. So all of us would have been like, well, there’s still a male like board what do directors or whatever. But I’d like to think that if if Barbie did take over I mean, this is this would have been an amazing and if Barbie did take over she completely dismantle the joy. Yes, yes. She turned it into like a full blown like feminist party house. Louise Adams 39:10 And the fact that she couldn’t is because this movie was paid for by Mattel last night. Yeah, yeah, this whole thing is basically Mattel construction. Well, I didn’t know that either. Mattel were intimately involved in the production of the film and even flew to film locations to chat with Greta. So you know, I do wonder that’s, you know, how much choice she really had. Speaker 2 39:37 Yeah, that’s fascinating, isn’t it? I still think she managed to do quite a bit even to given the control of Mattel but thought that really puts a spin on it doesn’t it makes you now that now I’m thinking was this one big advertising? Was this one big commercial? Louise Adams 39:55 I felt like that. I mean, everything was Barbie branded here in Sydney. As they went to Bondi pavilion and put the Barbie logo in the ocean pool, outside Bondi pavilion, so the whole, like, the marketing was extraordinary. They couldn’t get away from it and it felt like months and months and months of nostalgic Barbie themed, the pink and all that kind of stuff. It was everywhere, Unknown Speaker 40:20 not sooner. Stelter really does get us so it Louise Adams 40:23 does of course it kind of that’s what I mean by Gaslight, like these days following I’m like, my little girls thing. gaslit but my, my kind of postmenopausal feminist body positive. advocate is a little bit Rayji. Yeah, Unknown Speaker 40:40 I can see what you mean. I know how you feel. Louise Adams 40:42 Hey, you know what? Barbie wasn’t in Barbie land. You know how you were talking about mid earlier how she was discontinued? Yeah, the Mitchell another doll was released in 1965. So she’s a teen Barbie. And she was called Slumber Party Barbie. And she came with like pajamas and a silk dressing gown and also a set of pink bathroom scales. Set to 50 kilos, and a diet book, which when you open the pages simply says don’t eat. Speaker 2 41:20 Ah, are you kidding? Was that official Barbie branding? Yes, yes. Oh my gosh, I don’t even know what to say about that. I’m just glad that that one was discontinued really quickly, but it should have never been made. Louise Adams 41:34 But of course it was made right because and I think I read another critique from Virgie Tovar, which I thought was very good saying that there is a body image size hole in the Barbie movie because what we’ve been talking about, you know, primarily the problem with Barbie is her impact on girls and women’s body image. And this doll that that is like an eating disorder Barbie, as far as I’m concerned that it’s glossed over. There was one scene in the movie where the teenagers kind of had a go at Barbie about setting unrealistic beauty ideals. And then Barbie cried. Speaker 2 42:16 Yeah, she ran out and cried about it because she was really shocked to hear that the girls were upset at her for setting an unrealistic beauty standard. And I think that what was sneaky about that scene was that you feel for Margot Robbie’s character, just she’s human in rice burritos world. And so if someone was speaking to a woman like that, and saying you set an unrealistic ideal and attacking an individual woman, we all feel kind of uncomfortable about that even if the woman was setting an unrealistic ideal. But actually, it’s the ideal of Barbie. It’s what she represents as an object. Yes, that we’re critiquing. And we should be allowed to critique that object or that brand. Louise Adams 43:04 Yes. It’s not the focus of the Barbie movie. Speaker 2 43:08 No, it’s Barbie being humanized the entire time. Yeah, Louise Adams 43:13 right. So we really being asked, I mean, and I have a real problem with that, like, with all the people that I’ve seen with eating disorders, and are saying Barbie is responsible for all of it. No, but a movie about a figure as problematic as this doll, which has actual research showing how much harm it’s done just one stage and one set of tears. Speaker 2 43:38 Doesn’t seem like enough. Well, no, it isn’t. But really, what would the alternative be like? What sort of movie would we create? If we were doing heavy? Well, there’s more than one PC little stage, I can tell you that much. Louise Adams 43:53 They’d go to Barbie land and they would find postmenopausal Barbie. Okay, and she’d be like, uncomfortable shoes hanging out in the matriarchy. And then they would just be, that would be a completely different movie. It would because it wouldn’t be about what you look like. Speaker 2 44:12 No, absolutely not. It would be about who you are, how caring you are, as towards other women, how loving you are. All these other features and qualities of what makes women amazing, would be emphasized. Louise Adams 44:29 It might be about Barbie realizing that in the real world. Millions of girls and women have been damaged and thinking that their bodies are not okay because of what she used to look like. Yes, she goes back to the real world, right, hips down to her waist in her crocs, and as she starts changing the real world by saying that was just an idea and that’s not what you need to do to be on the fly. Speaker 2 45:00 on it. Yes, we’ve now taken over Barbie land it’s no longer what it is. It’s no longer what consumers are showing you Barbies are we’ve taken over and there’s there’s chin hair Barbie, I’m I am chin her Barbie by the way. And we get put back in the real world to tell women that Bobby land has been taken over by really radical awesome women. Louise Adams 45:26 Yeah, like basically all the weird Barbies are the real, Speaker 2 45:30 really much all weird Barbies. Yeah. And Alan’s. I loved Ellen in them. Louise Adams 45:38 Yeah, so we have an ordinary revolution. Yeah, yeah. Speaker 2 45:43 And everyday revolution, little everyday things that we do to push back against diet, culture and beauty ideals. And you can do it too in the real world. And this is how we did it. And this is how you’ll do it. That’s what we need. That’s what the movie should have been. Okay, like, Louise Adams 46:02 I feel better. I feel like we’ve we’ve got a we’ve got a an alternative universe Barbie movie yet which is more in line with, like less gaslighting, but obviously less glamorous, and no glimmers of how nice it is to feel. shiny and pretty and stereotypical. Speaker 2 46:23 Yes, there’s a different focus in our Barbie land. Mm Louise Adams 46:27 hmm. Yeah. When we finished watching the Barbie movie, because I watched it with my 11 year old, I don’t know, your situation, like how many kids were in the audience. But as soon as the movie entered, my daughter turns to me and goes, Mom, what’s a gynecologist? Speaker 2 46:46 With no kids in in the cinema that I was watching it in. Really? Yes. It was mostly sort of people. My age people a bit older than me. So middle age ish. Louise Adams 46:57 Yeah, I do think that like it was interesting, because it was like 5050 and it was like I was there with the school mom, so there wasn’t much like feminist conversation happening. But the kids had a completely different experience of the movie to the month. You know, the moms are like full of nostalgia and like talking like we did like I have Barbies. I didn’t have Barbies. Kids were like, I just I felt hopeful. Yeah, that my kid does that Mike is like, Barbie. Neither of my kids ever played with dolls growing up, like not the baby kind and the Barbie kind. And I think my older one did quite a bit of weird Barbie. My youngest is like, this is irrelevant. This is irrelevant. And I really really felt hopeful about that. Speaker 2 47:45 I’m actually noticing this phenomenon too, because none of my nieces play with Barbies. Now, that is such a different childhood to the childhood that I had where it was all Barbie. It’s like if you had a birthday, you wanted a Barbie doll. Yeah, they don’t even look for a Barbie. Don’t expect to get a Barbie toy at all. It’s all you know, toys have changed for little girls. And I think there’s still some problem toys, little girls, but it’s interesting. But now that makes me wonder more. Was this an advertising ploy? Yes, I can another generation of little girls into Barbies. So Louise Adams 48:21 I really think that that’s what it was all about. Because you know, when you read about how much Mattel’s sales have dipped since the appearance of Bratz dolls, they’ve really lost market share significantly since, especially since 2014. And so that’s why they introduced curvy Barbie, which was also a flop. So I think that this movie is really, really trying to steer them back into relevance. And I think their movie has definitely given them a moment. But I am confident like that my kid, for example, won’t go out and by Valerie. Yeah. And that makes me feel good is a generation of little girls, and little boys that aren’t like looking at like physique based dolls for inspiration that can lead to good things. Absolutely. Yeah. Speaker 2 49:10 I’d be very interested to see, you know, the next 20 years exactly what our perceptions of Barbie are going to be this thing from this nostalgic object or children’s toy from many, many years ago that we will look at and go can you believe? Louise Adams 49:28 Well, I already feel by being here that I spent far too much of my childhood playing with a doll with the proportions of a German prostitute. Speaker 2 49:40 Well, I remember, I remember reading something about if Barbie was a real woman, her neck wouldn’t be able to support her head. Yes, I’ve Louise Adams 49:49 read that too. So Speaker 2 49:53 So you know, our heads, they’re important to us. So Louise Adams 49:58 heads are important, but it’s actually See what’s inside our head to you know, I do our thinking might I think we’ll think it’ll be completely irrelevant. I think it’ll be like there’s a museum, that I do think Mattel’s Barbie range is gonna go the way of Jenny Craig. It’s just part of an artifact of diet culture. And, you know, like the big commercial weight loss companies are like, just ditching diets now, because they’ve, they’ve squeezed the laughter that lemon, they’ve really, really done themselves out of a job by completely admitting that diets don’t work. And that’s why they’ve bought into like online pharmacies. So I think Mattel’s Barbie movie is kind of along those lines of desperately trying to stay relevant. Speaker 2 50:43 Yes, this is where we need to be aware of the changing face of diet culture. But we’ve spoken about this before, but some one thing becomes irrelevant. And it morphs into another thing that we find far more palatable in the current age. Science. Yes, our eyes need to be very, very open to it, we need to be really vigilant, Louise Adams 51:02 which is why I’m so glad I got to talk to you about this because the sense of gaslighting that I was having after watching the Barbie movie, you know, I feel like it makes a lot more sense after talking to you that we do have to kind of keep our eyes open to these underlying themes, and being able to think critically about what we’re being taught. So I’m going to really think now about like, what did that movie try and tell me about what it is to be a woman? And what’s important Speaker 2 51:31 to that? Because I’m gonna, I’m gonna do that too. And just as we’re finishing up, Lou, we really need to steal your bring you to Melbourne. be besties partaking me movies. We’ve got to do this. Louise Adams 51:45 Okay, I’m down for it. I think next time you go and see a movie. I’m coming down. Yes, yeah. Yay. Thank you for all the work that you do in this space and your amazing brain. Unknown Speaker 51:59 Same to you. Thank you so much. Louise Adams 52:03 Oh, thank you, Dr. nap for helping to unpack a complicated wealth body. In my opinion, a feminist lens is really important. And that does such a masterful job. Applying this to our modern world. I truly appreciate her. So is the Barbie film of feminist triumph? Well, I’m not convinced. It’s a little bread crumb of progress. And it was in many ways, a terrific film, and I did enjoy it. But this shadowy influence of the patriarchy and the fact that basically this is a giant ad for Mattel really reinforces who wins here. I want to say in closing, it’s okay, if you’ve loved the film. I loved it too. In many ways, the bittersweet connection to my inner little girl self is all wrapped up in diet culture, in patriarchy, and capitalism. So I guess we can all say it’s complicated, but don’t come at me with a Barbie doll anytime soon. Okay. If you loved listening to nab, and you want to know more about her and the amazing books and research that she’s doing, I have all of them in the show notes, go to and click on podcast and then transcript that also later emailed me flagging a really cool article in the conversation which is called is the Barbie movie a bold step to reinvent and fix past wrongs. Or a clever ploy to tap a new market, which makes me feel like I’m not the only one feeling a bit gaslit and I’ve popped that one into the shownotes as well. Okay, that’s it for this week. Thank you so much for being a fire up listener. I’ll be back next week with more steaming diet culture bullshit. Take care everyone. Trust your body. Think critically. push back against diet culture. UNTRAP from the crap! Transcribed by


Norton, K. I., Olds, T. S., Olive, S., & Dank, S. (1996). Ken and Barbie at life size. Sex Roles34, 287-294.
Brownell, K. D., & Napolitano, M. A. (1995). Distorting reality for children: Body size proportions of Barbie and Ken dolls. International Journal of Eating Disorders18(3), 295-298.
Dittmar, H., Halliwell, E., & Ivy, S. (2006). Does Barbie make girls want to be thin? The effect of experimental exposure to images of dolls on the body image of 5- to 8-year-old girls. Developmental Psychology42(2), 283-292.
Also, one of my colleagues Lauren wrote this and I thought your listeners might enjoy it: Is the Barbie movie a bold step to reinvent and fix past wrongs or a clever ploy to tap a new market? (

Find more of Dr Natalie Jovanovski’s work here: