If you’ve ever taken a film class, you might have the terms, ”neoclassical” and ”seminal” living rent-free in your brain. If not, let me give you the textbook definition of each. The term ”neoclassical” is of, relating to, constituting a revival, or an adaptation of a classical; Primarily known in literature, music, art, or architecture. The term ”seminal”, means something is highly original and influences the development of a work, event, moment, or figure. With the recent release of Warner Bros Pictures’ film Barbie, there’s been some conversations happening regarding the meaning and impact of Barbie and the doll’s influence on young children. These conversations have informed the question that’s currently on my mind: Is Barbie a neoclassical or seminal film?
Barbie is directed by Greta Gerwig who wrote the script alongside her partner, Marriage Story’s Noah Baumbach. Both have experience writing independent films so it should be assumed that they are able to stick to their roots and infuse literary devices such as irony, satire, and drama into a film of this scale that’s based on such a recognizable yet controversial fashion doll.
The film stars Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling as the stereotypical versions of Barbie and Ken respectively alongside Issa Rae as President Barbie and former Saturday Night Live cast member Kate McKinnon as Weird Barbie.
The movie’s opening introduces viewers to a clear blue sky and pink sandy beach of Barbieland’s perfect doll-human residents. There are many different versions of Barbie but nonetheless, all have an important purpose or motivation that showcases their uniqueness and contribution to the world they inhabit, unless you’re a Barbie that has an existential crisis or you’re just Ken. You could also just be an Allan, or a weird outcast Barbie in the matriarchal system of Barbieland.
It seems as if Gerwig took some inspiration from other well-known films and put it in the world she created for Barbie. She also shared an in-depth list of movies that she referenced or were influenced by in an interview with Letterboxd. Some of which are easy to notice in the movie. One of the films has more of a presence in the film than others, and that’s. The Wizard of Oz. These references and influences show that Barbie can be seen as a fixture in the nostalgia realm of entertainment for multiple generations to enjoy. It’s safe to say Barbie crosses as neoclassical adaptation of Mattel’s doll but streams as a seminal film with its existential messaging in combination with its heavy influences from other classic movies.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments. Keep up to date with Culturess for more Barbie news and coverage.