Barbie film references, side by side

Barbie film references, side by side

Barbie is a triumph! Greta Gerwig and the film’s production design team referenced renowned films such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Matrix and Playtime. Lets take a look…

The Dawn of Barbie – 2001: A Space Odyssey

The Barbie teaser trailer had already shown us there was going to be a big nod to Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey. The big screen experience does not disappoint: The opening sequence’s homage to 2001‘s Dawn of Man sequence has garnered guffaws of acknowledgement from film buffs far and wide.

barbie film references 2001 dawn of man comparison
Above: Barbie echos the monolith. Below: The Dawn of Man sequence with monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey

Instead of apes in the savannah being enlightened by the monolith, in Barbie we find young children being enlightened by the appearance of a huge Barbie (Margot Robbie) with 10-foot legs.

The children smash up their ugly, traditional dolls once Barbie has shown them what a doll can be, in the same way that it dawns on 2001‘s apes that by smashing bones they can be used as tools, thus changing the course of evolution.

The You Tube clip below shows this as a clever side by side comparison:-

This Barbie scene is set to the same fanfare music as the 2001: Strauss’s Also sprach Zarathustra. This music also returns later in the film when, after living in the female dominated Barbie Land, Ken learns that patriarchy rules in the real world.

There’s also another Kubrick reference: Sasha asks her mum if she’s “shining” with Barbie, in reference to the psychic ability explored in The Shining.

Many years ago we had our own Film and Furniture Djinn chair as seen in 2001 A Space Odyssey upholstered in fuchsia pink. There were several reasons for this as discussed in a previous article (Seeing red or tickled pink?) but perhaps we were channelling our inner Barbie!

Film and Furniture's Djinn chair as seen in 2001: A Space Odyssey
Film and Furniture’s Djinn chair as seen in 2001: A Space Odyssey

A nod to Psycho

barbie film references psycho weird barbie house
Above: Psycho. Below: Weird Barbie’s house in Barbie

Weird Barbie’s house is made up of unusual angled blocks. Amongst other references, it was partly influenced by Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho – it sits on top of a hill and has a winding stair path leading up to it. This house however is full of colour to create a positive, fun feel. 

A Matrix type choice

barbie matrix comparison
Above: Weird Barbie in Barbie. Below: The Matrix

When Stereotypical Barbie goes to visit Weird Barbie (Kate McKinnon) she is presented with the choice of high heeled shoes or Birkenstocks (the latter being the choice to reveal the truth about the universe). This is a parody of the red or blue pill choice in The Matrix.

The Playtime reference

barbie film references playtime comparison
Above: The Mattel offices in Barbie. Below: Playtime

The design of the Mattel offices in Barbie also had us shuffling in our cinema seats. It’s bears more than a passing resemblance to the grey cubicles of the office in Jacques Tati’s Playtime of 1967.

Gerwig’s other film references were broad, from the 2005 animated film Barbie and the Magic of Pegasus to The Wizard of Oz, and from Pee-wee’s Big Adventure to Gene Kelly’s painter’s garret in An American in Paris.

Did you spot any other Barbie film references or easter eggs?

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