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What’s so fantastic about life in plastic?

Margot Robbie in Barbie

“At the risk of sounding like a humourless old bat,” says Sarah Vine in The Mail on Sunday, “what is all this Barbie hysteria?” Grown women are “gushing like pre-pubescent fangirls” at the idea of Margot Robbie playing the part of an “anatomically impossible plastic doll”. Everywhere you look, “it’s Barbie this, Barbie that”; Barbie as a “postmodern ironic feminist icon”. Even my daughter has painted her nails a “particularly lurid shade of pale yellow” in celebration of the film’s release. “Have people suddenly developed pink candyfloss for brains?”

You’d think that to all these super-woke Gen Zs, a “global marketing juggernaut” that encourages young girls to be “thin, white blondes with size-three feet, perky breasts, a tiny waist and a fixed white smile” would be anathema. But even my uber-clever friends seem to have been won over. Apparently, because director Greta Gerwig is an ardent feminist, it’s all a bit of fun. Excuse me if I’m not convinced. Barbie is a “pernicious plastic representation of impossible womanhood”: if you translated her proportions into a real human, “she’d only have room for half a liver”. She’s every little girl’s “gateway drug to a lifetime of self-loathing”, and when they started producing “inspirational” versions – doctors, astronauts, presidents and so on – it “just made things tougher”. Not only were girls expected to look like a supermodel – they had to be “some sort of genius philanthropist” too. “Gee, thanks.”

💄💣 Barbie and Oppenheimer, a gloomy biopic of the mastermind behind the atomic bomb, will both be released this Friday. The question, says The Economist, is whether audiences will pick “realism or escapism”. As war rages in Europe and countries like North Korea develop nuclear arsenals, Oppenheimer “may feel too real and raw”: director Christopher Nolan says “people leave the movie absolutely devastated”. History suggests viewers will opt for Gerwig’s pink-infused “dopamine generator” instead. In World War II, viewers flocked to watch Gone with the Wind; at the height of the Vietnam War, the biggest movie in America was Funny Girl. “Who wants reality when life in plastic is so fantastic?”