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Barbie and the subversive power of pink

In a society that still condemns and sees everything feminine as inferior, why not turn it into a strength?


If you, too, are completely in hype and thinking of nothing but the movie Barbie, out on July 21, you have surely seen the video published by Architectural Digest, in which Margot Robbie, the titular Barbie, takes us on a tour of the movie set.

Pink, pink everywhere: the entire set is wrapped in different shades of the most sugary color, so much so that Sarah Greenwood, the film's set designer dramatically declared, The world has run out of pink”. In fact, the highly detailed set required so many packages of pink paint that the manufacturer's stock was exhausted.

Barbie-mania and therefore pink-mania broke out, in what seems to be a rediscovery of a character and imagery that appeared to be out of fashion. But is this really the case?

Nothing is as it seems

Speaking of the colors on the set, director Greta Gerwig said she attended endless meetings to choose the perfect pink and her desire was to use a very bright tone, since as a child she was attracted precisely to the brightest, most shocking pink. Pink as the space of girlhood. Greta Gerwig knows well and has captured the spirit and ambitions of girls, with films such as Little Women and Lady Bird, where she poignantly showcased the dreams, aspirations, and difficulties of her protagonists. And looking at the trailer for Barbie, divided between a dreamy, almost musical atmosphere and more reflective moments, we can expect a similar portrayal.

Barbie superficially is the most standard vision of conventional femininity: she is thin, blond, beautiful, always wearing makeup and fashionable clothes. Yet if we look at her history, we find that she is a doll that has always been in step with the times: created by entrepreneur Ruth Handler and officially presented to the public in 1959 this doll, the first with “women” features, has gone through trends, movements, controversies, has been called “detrimental” to girls' self-esteem, but also changed shape, presenting herself as more inclusive, with different skin tones and physiques, with disabilities and crossing over 200 professions, from astronaut to veterinarian.

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And in the world of Barbieland, Margot Robbie and the other Barbies are completely different women, they are presidentesses, avocatesses, scientists, but they all love pink. An impossible pairing? I bet as teenagers you too went through the I hate pink” phase. Bombarded by  unattainable models of femininity, we shied away from everything conventional: hating pink is cool because it is a color for “girlies”, weak and frivolous.

Yet today, we have discovered how “think pink” can be molded to our identities: why can't I love pink, glitter, and even astrophysics? 

If we think about it in the end, everything is relative and codes change: did you know that in Victorian times, light blue was the color associated with little girls, because of its delicate tone, while pink was more masculine, being a bright color?

Its bright nature turns it into the color of feminine youth according to Greta Gerwig, an age often denigrated for its immaturity, which in reality hides technicolor dreams and ambitions. Pink is loud and colorful and for that, it has been used by social movements, like the LGBTQ+ community, to symbolize a revolt against the dictates of society. Pink is back in the limelight with Y2K fashion, which showcases Mean Girls-style femininity but reinterprets it with today's eyes and sensibilities.

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And in today's socio-cultural scenario, where the world seems to be sinking into the grayness of increasingly precarious balances, we desperately need optimism, to live for our dreams and to realize a glittering future. In this sense, to think and wear pink, is not to look at the world superficially, but to reappropriate the dictates of femininity and make it our own, to make it strong (but has it ever been weak for real?), like a shimmering armor to face the precariousness of the world. More pink than ever.



Illustration by Gloria Dozio - Acrimònia Studios