Predominately pink, with layers of learning: university community explores impact of 'Barbie'

October 16, 2023

Students and faculty dressed in pink attend the Barbie discussion party in the Burt Kahn Court.

A mix of fans, students, faculty and staff helped turn the Burt Kahn Court pink during roundtable discussions on the impact of Barbie and her namesake 2023 movie.

“Ideas Live Forever: A Discussion of the Barbie Movie,” was the concept of Schweitzer Professor of Philosophy and Women's and Gender Studies Anat Biletzki said event co-organizer Kim O'Neill, director of the women's & gender studies program.

The October 5 discussions offered on the Mount Carmel Campus were a collaborative effort of the departments of women’s & gender studies; media studies; film, television, and media arts; and the honors program.

“Very rarely is there a movie that everybody goes to see, so it felt like a really great opportunity to bring people together across age gaps and position gaps to have conversations,” O’Neill said. “And very rarely does a movie explicitly intervene politically in its moment, and this movie does. So that offers us an occasion to talk about some things that are often implicit in the way that we live our lives, but not so explicit.”

Professor of media studies Lisa Burns said that “Barbie” touches on many aspects of everyday life and intersections among numerous different topics.

“This movie really is a cultural milestone, and that’s why we should be talking about it in so many ways,” said Burns. “It’s a great learning tool, because students can take something fun — a movie that they loved — and see how there are so many different layers to it. Not every movie is like that, but that’s the beauty of this movie.”

Additional event co-organizers were Kearston Wesner, associate professor of media studies; Mary Schmitt, assistant professor of film, television, and media arts; and Melissa Kaplan-Charkow, administrative director of the honors program.

Most participants arrived in Barbie pink-inspired garb. Many piled on more pink at tables offering sashes, heart-shaped glasses, flower leis and feather boas. Guests also enjoyed pink lemonade and pink-frosted cupcakes.

O’Neill thanked all of the “Bobcat Barbies” for participating in “the pinkest event ever held at Quinnipiac University.”

“I think a lot of people are here because they are Barbie fans and a lot of people are here because they don’t get that many opportunities to have intellectual conversations about the things that they enjoy, watch and listen to,” said O’Neill. “I think everybody can take something from these conversations."

Fifteen simultaneous round-table discussions were moderated by faculty and student leaders. Participants could join in four different topics during the two-hour event. Discussions viewed the Barbie movie through lenses including feminism, representations of masculinity, political messaging, social media, heteronormativity and queer representation, mother-daughter relationships, consumerism cosplaying, fashion, beauty and the female form.

Julia Lockery ’24, an English major in the MAT program, moderated the table discussion “Pretty in Pink: Why is Everybody Dressing Up for the Barbie Movie?”

“It was interesting to be able to discuss why in the movie everyone decides to wear pink as a community,” said Lockery. “I thought we were going to focus just on the attire; but everybody had different aspects to offer of why it connected with identity through not only the Barbie community, but society as a whole.

At the same table, Wesner said she recently read an article postulating the predominance of pink attire worn by “Barbie” movie-goers is a form of “dopamine dressing.”

“The thought is that the world is so chaotic, wearing pink is a way to feel happy for a moment,” said Wesner.

Nursing student Nancy Nguyen ‘26, said she felt "Barbie" is a touchstone across different demographics because it connects many with moments of childhood happiness.

“I think it was a really relatable movie, and it brought back a lot of childhood memories, since I grew up with Barbie and just loved everything about Barbie,” said Nguyen. “I think a lot of young girls can relate to Barbie because she’s part of our childhood."

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