Barbie Has Been A Major Hit, But I Fear Studios Missed The Major Takeaway Of Its Success

Ryan Gosling as Ken and Margot Robbie as Barbie in Barbie
(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Despite it being a tumultuous year for the entertainment industry at large, Barbie appears to be the white horse (or maybe the pink horse is more acceptable) the industry needs. Over a month after its initial release, Barbie continues to break box office records left and right. 

It’s only the second flick on the 2023 movies calendar to surpass $1 billion, and now it has become Warner Brothers highest-grossing movie, adjusted for inflation, dethroning Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2.  There’s no denying that Barbie has become a major hit for the studios, but a part of me can’t help but fear the studios are going to attribute its success to a secondary reason. 

Backshot of Barbie overlooking Barbie world from her dream house

(Image credit: Warner Brothers)

Say No To More Toy-Based Movies

In fact, these companies have already begun enacting my worst fear: more toy-IP-driven movies. Variety was first to report the news days after Barbie’s release, sharing that Mattel already had 14 toy-based movies in early development, including the previously announced Hot Wheels movie, prior to the ongoing WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. While it’s true these movies were already in development before Barbie came out, there’s no doubt that the movie’s success is going to accelerate these toy-based movies when the strikes do end.

Look, I’m not completely against more movies based on toys. Surely there are some Mattel properties that would make great movies, and there’s an entire genre of 1980s TV shows based on toys that were quite successful. However, the success of Barbie shouldn’t be equated to the iconic toy line. It definitely helped draw in record-breaking viewership, but at the end of the day, Barbie’s success stems from the incredibly moving story brought to life by the talented cast and crew. 

From left to right: America Ferrera riding shotgun, Ariana Greenblatt in the backseat, and Margot Robbie driving the Barbie car in Barbie Land.

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Say Yes To More Female-Driven, Female-Created Movies

So, what should the studios takeaway from Barbie’s success? Well, Warner Brothers and other studios should realize that a large part of that success comes from it being a movie created by women for women starring women. It’s really that simple. 

Women make up a little over half the world’s population, and yet every industry fails to see the power we have. The fact of the matter is we want to see more women in front of and behind the camera telling stories that are intrinsic to our experiences. It certainly doesn’t hurt if those movies are entertaining and heartwarming to watch. 

Greta Gerwig took the iconic Barbie brand and, with the help of co-writer Noah Baumbach, created a story that not only honored Barbie lore but told a realistic, if not heightened, experience many women in the world face. It was smart, fresh, funny and had a good moral message. That’s what I and many other moviegoers want more of in the future. After all, there are few things that are better than seeing yourself and your experiences represented on a big screen. 

With Barbie dominating the box office, the likes of Taylor Swift and Beyonce breaking records in the music touring industry, and even more original female-driven movies set to release in 2023 like Bottoms, there’s no denying that 2023 is shaping up to be a year of women success. While the studios might already be taking away the wrong reason for Barbie’s success, it’s my hope that the success of future female-driven movies will get them to understand we don’t need more movies based on toys. We need more movies where women are allowed to be women unabashedly, told and starring women. 

Barbie is reportedly being released on Blu-ray, 4K Ultra HD on October 3rd, with a paid digital release expected to be available prior to that date. As of now, there is no date for when the movie will be available to Max subscribers, but it’s safe to assume it’ll happen before the end of the year.  

Freelance Writer