Unless you have been logged off the internet for the past year, the internet and culture have been obsessed with director Greta Gerwig’s upcoming hit, Barbie. Yes, I'm already calling it a hit, and for good reason. There are so many events that have come together to make this movie a success, whether the critics agree or not. From Barbie-core, the iconic red carpet outfits from Margot Robbie, the feet, and the Oppenheimer v. Barbie rivalry that the next generations will wish they could have lived through, the film has already become a cult classic that will stand the test of time.
But this level of success and excitement wasn’t always circulating within the entertainment industry the constantly relevant yet polarizing fashion doll.
The idea of a Barbie film has been around for nearly a decade. Sony Pictures originally had the rights to Barbie and spent years trying to get the movie off the ground. Amy Schumer and Anne Hathaway were attached to the project, then weren’t. The same goes for the creative talent tasked with creating a Barbie movie.
'Barbie'Credit: Warner Bros. PicturesDiablo Cody, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of Juno, was tasked to write a Barbie movie for Sony. Unfortunately, she exited the film in 2018, telling ScreenCrush, “I was literally incapable of turning in a Barbie draft. God knows I tried.”
“I think I know why I shit the bed,” Cody said. “When I was first hired for this, I don’t think the culture had not embraced the femme or the bimbo as valid feminist archetypes yet. If you look up Barbie on TikTok you’ll find this wonderful subculture that celebrates the feminine, but in 2014, taking this skinny blonde white doll and making her into a heroine was a tall order.”
Cody seems to have wanted to make Barbie a bimbo archetype, similar to the himbo male archetype that has been embraced for decades. Women in film, however, have often had to fit a very constrained mold of feminism to appeal to a larger audience. I mean, we are still living in a time when people refer to "female-centric" entertainment as low-art.
'Barbie'Credit: Warner Bros. PicturesLuckily, this is an idea that has cracked, largely thanks to TikTok and its embrace of micro-archetypes and a new wave of feminism that is coming to light after the #MeToo movement.
Here is the other thing: Barbie has had a problematic past, but she is also constantly evolving and reflecting the cultural ideas of what a young woman can be in a male-dominated world. She is the first fashion doll when the world was full of baby dolls. She, and the many interactions of her that are different races, ethnicities, shapes, sizes, and disabilities, have no boundaries, but it is possible that Hollywood executives don’t think about the infinitude of a doll’s story.
This is a factor that Cody was constantly battling as she tried to write draft after draft when the studio kept trying to push for something like Warner Bros.' massive meta-comedy animated hit, The Lego Movie, which grossed $468 million worldwide (according to Box Office Mojo) and landed an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song.
“I heard endless references to The Lego Movie in development,” Cody toldGQ magazine, “and it created a problem for me because they had done it so well. Any time I came up with something meta, it was too much like what they had done. It was a roadblock for me, but now enough time has passed that they can just cast [The Lego Movie antagonist] Will Ferrell as the antagonist in a real-life Barbie movie and nobody cares.”
Will Ferrell as the CEO of Mattel in 'Barbie'Credit: Warner Bros. PicturesEventually, Mattel bought the rights back to Barbie and spent time looking for the right creative partner to do the fashion doll justice on the silver screen. After finding their champion in Margot Robbie, who portrays the main Barbie in Barbie, landing on Gerwig as a writer/director, and that infamous Letterboxd account that showed which movies Margot was possibly watching for Barbie, the success of the film in the current culture seems inevitable.
“The right place at the right time” seems to be a mantra in Hollywood that still holds true.
Sometimes, you have a fantastic story that is fitting to go straight into development and proves to be a moderate success, launching your career. Other times, you have a great story that the world isn’t ready for… yet. Your story might be too forward-thinking for the majority of mainstream audiences, according to Hollywood executives who get to push the button to greenlight your script. This doesn’t mean that the story you are telling doesn’t have a place in cinema because it does. Don't quit writing stories that matter to you because they will matter to everyone eventually.
Being a writer means that you are listening to the world around you, taking the temperature, and asking how you can reflect this energy in a story that speaks to you. Don’t be disappointed if your screenplay doesn’t sell right away. Keep writing and fine-tuning your story. Don’t forego your dream of storytelling.
Just keep writing!
Source: GQ Magazine