Home » Kenniscentrum » Breaking Barriers: What Barbie Teaches Us About Representation

Diversity & Inclusion, Webinar

A still from the Barbie movie where stereotypical Barbie is surrounded by other Barbies and showing them her flat feet. The still is surrounded by a pink border.

The buzz around the Barbie movie release was undeniable. With innovative marketing and an impressive cast, it sparked numerous conversations about Barbie’s cultural role, feminism in the film, and its influence on girls. At Allyens, we were captivated too, inspiring us to host an insightful free (yes free stuff, always nice, right?) webinar about delving into the significance of inclusive representation, using Barbie as an example of how to get it right.

Curious to learn what we talked about? These are some of the topics we discussed and some key takeaways.

Representation helps us shape our identity & learn about the world

Our identities are not just formed internally but influenced by what we learn and see around us. Therefore, the people and narratives we encounter in social and traditional media significantly influence how we perceive both ourselves and others.

This is why it’s so impactful to see aspects of ourselves on-screen, in the media, and in marketing. When there is little or mostly negative representation, it can affect how we view ourselves. Our desire for representation also extends beyond ourselves. Broader representation offers a more comprehensive view of society and the people around us. It’s important to acknowledge that one story cannot cover everyone’s experience. Therefore, promoting diverse narratives provides more opportunities for people to connect with various aspects of their own lives and identities.

This perspective should guide our marketing communications efforts, ensuring that we, as marketers and communicators, create personas and content that respects and reflects the complexity of people’s identities.

What we can learn from Barbie 

Barbie’s appearance has transformed over the years, allowing people of various backgrounds to identify with her. However, this evolution was not always the case.

Throughout her history, Barbie has been criticized (often justifiably) in the face of our ever-evolving culture. As a result, Barbie serves as a reflection, a mirror, of our contemporary society. How we discuss and perceive Barbie can provide valuable insights into the climate of today and the changing values of people.

This evolution and criticism are all addressed in the new Barbie movie. The film is bold but never offensive, allowing space for meaningful discussions on the themes it presents, such as feminism and women’s roles in society. Moreover, the movie embraces authentic representation, by casting a diverse cast of people and a variety of roles that feel true to the movie. 

Even though the movie was praised for its success, it isn’t perfect. Getting everything right is impossible. That is why in the webinar, we highlight the fact that it is important that more people keep trying to strive for multiple forms of representation.    

Where it goes wrong and how to do better 

While we love talking about representation in movies and tv shows, marketing and communication is still our main focus. There’s still a lot of room for improvement there, so we shared some examples of where things can go wrong and provided tips on how to do better. This helps marketers to better understand the Barbie examples and encourages them to think critically about their own work. Because as marketers we have the power and responsibility to accurately represent and reflect today’s diverse society. 

In conclusion, in the webinar we highlight why it is so important that more people keep trying to get inclusive representation right. So that brands and organizations continue to implement inclusive strategies to strive for more and better representation. So that everyone feels seen. 

You can find the recording of the webinar (with English subtitles) via the Free resources page of our Circle Community. Enjoy!