This Barbie Is the Entertainment Industry
By Aaron Isenstein
The entertainment industry of 2023 has been defined by two events: Greta Gerwig’s Barbie movie and Taylor Swift’s career boom. Barbie has earned over a billion dollars worldwide, making it the highest grossing female-directed film of all time. Taylor Swift became the first woman to surpass 100 million listeners on Spotify and her Eras Tour made over 2.2 billion dollars. Now, early forecasts have the concert Eras Tour film surpassing $125 million for its opening weekend. These overwhelming successes were met with some shock. How did Barbie make that much money? How are this many people seeing Taylor Swift? What both Barbie and the Eras Tour create is an environment centering around and dominated by women. Women, who have constantly found their interests mocked, are finally getting content embracing them for being women. The joys of womanhood are celebrated in these events, where being “girly” is not just tolerated but celebrated. To put it simply, it’s a feminine phenomenon.
The release of Barbie was one of the most interesting weeks I’ve found myself in on the internet. In the era of social media, no film exists without discourse. As a film made by and for women, Barbie naturally found itself at the front of some of the most obnoxious discourse possible. “Barbenheimer” memes aside, there was Ben Shapiro and his cult of incels calling the film man-hating and full of toxic femininity (is that a bad thing though?), the discussion of if feminism can be commodified (let’s be real, anything can and will be commodified in 2023), the looming question of if men only liking Ken is a little problematic (I mean…). But if you stepped outside from the discourse, you could find something truly beautiful. All over the world, there were women dressing up with their friends to see Barbie. They shared experiences of crying with their friends, crying with their mothers, and even crying with their children! There were communities formed from this shared event of seeing Barbie, with groups of strangers all dressed in pink could feel connected for 2 hours. You’d even see random women going up to strangers and greeting one another with a “Hi Barbie!”. This tight-knit social environment felt refreshing yet reminiscent of an event I’d experienced earlier.
I saw the Eras Tour about a month before Barbie released. I spent the month before perfecting my outfit and making over 80 friendship bracelets to trade the night of the show. I fondly treasure that magical day when I arrived to Cincinnati and spent the entire day surrounded by fellow Swifties. Even the two hours I spent in line for merch was spent trading bracelets, complimenting outfits, and having the time of my life. There was this sense of comfort from walking into a restaurant and knowing that everyone in the building was there for the same reason as you. Like Barbie, a Taylor Swift concert led to this pristine environment created by women and for women. It was incredible.
The three highest grossing events in entertainment this summer all belong to women (Taylor Swift, Barbie, Beyoncé). The most popular trends on TikTok revolve around girl dinner or girl math. It’s no secret that the media influences how society works, how we view stereotypes, and how certain actions are deemed culturally acceptable. Up until recently, it wasn’t “cool” to like Taylor Swift. Being stereotypically feminine was looked down upon. When Barbie and Taylor Swift promote female solidarity and become recognized as sensations, one can only hope that it can represent a bigger change in how we see the world and how the world sees us.
Until then, this Barbie is happily feminine.