Barbie is the doll who conquered the world. The first Barbie was created by Ruth Handler in 1959 and was marketed as a “fashion model” doll, but since then she’s been a doctor, a scientist, an astronaut, and virtually anything else you can think of. Girls the world over adore her, so when a Barbie movie was announced, fans were nervous. But luckily, they didn’t have to be. The Margot Robbie-starring, Greta Gerwig-directed Barbie was made with endless love and care, as these hidden details prove.
The opening of the movie may look familiar
Did you know that the beginning of Barbie is a deliberate reference to another famous movie? It’s a clever riff on the opening of the groundbreaking sci-fi flick 2001: A Space Odyssey. Gerwig replaced A Space Odyssey’s monkeys encountering a black monolith with a group of little girls encountering a giant doll.
The giant Barbie is played by Margot Robbie, of course, and the filmmakers actually contstructed a huge pair of Robbie’s legs so that the little girls on the set had something to react to and physically touch!
Follow the pink brick road
Barbie also has a lot of references to The Wizard of Oz; did you catch them? Here are just a few: the movie theater in Barbieland can be seen playing the famous Judy Garland film; Barbie wears what looks like a pink version of Dorothy’s famous gingham dress at one point; and in order to leave Barbieland, our heroine must travel down a colorful brick road.
This is all intentional, of course. Gerwig told Letterboxd, “In our movie, we have the Pink Brick Road instead of the Yellow Brick Road. We also have beautiful painted backdrops of horizons. We executed it like they would’ve done in the ’30s and ’40s and ’50s soundstage musicals.”
The story behind Ken’s horse book is very sweet
At one point in the movie, Ken is seen in his Mojo Dojo Casa House reading a book called Man and Horse: The Long Ride Across America — and it’s a totally real book! It was written by university lecturer John Egenes, who was awestruck to see it in the movie. Even better, the book was a gift from Margot Robbie to Ryan Gosling.
Robbie gave her co-star all sorts of Ken-type gifts as the movie was being shot, and this book was just one of them. But Gosling was so intrigued by Man and Horse that he’s expressed interest about even turning that into a movie, too!
Grease is the word
During Ryan Gosling’s big song and dance sequence for “I'm Just Ken,” he and the other Ken actors are dressed in all-black outfits that look quite a lot like what the guys wore in the iconic 1978 film Grease. This could just be a cool movie reference, but the meaning behind it could go a little deeper.
Grease has often drawn criticism for the way the women in the film are portrayed. At the end of the film, Sandy has changed herself completely in order to win over Danny. But in Barbie, our protagonist has no intention of changing herself for a man, and part of Ken’s story arc is realizing that.