Activists Malala Yousafzai and Greta Thunberg join Barbie craze

The Greta Gerwig-directed film has broken box office records since its release

Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai and her husband Asser Malik at a screening of Barbie. Photo: @malala / Instagram
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As Barbie continues to take over the world as one of the biggest earning movies of the year, top activists are also joining the pink-infused phenomenon.

On Sunday, Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai posted a photo of herself and husband Asser Malik taken at a screening of the movie.

Posing inside a life-size Barbie doll box, she cheekily captioned the photo “This Barbie has a Nobel Prize. He’s just Ken” – a reference to the “This Barbie …” meme that's taken over social media.

Yousafzai, 26, added: “We loved the movie, it was so funny and thoughtful. I hope this caption doesn’t hurt all the Kens as much as the movie Ken.”

While UAE fans will have to wait until August 31 to see Barbie, the Greta Gerwig-directed film has already grossed more than $775 million at the global box office. It's also earned the highest-grossing opening weekend for a film directed by a woman.

The film stars Margot Robbie in the titular role and Ryan Gosling as Ken, and follows them as they set off on an adventure into the real world.

Climate activist Greta Thunberg, who joined demonstrators in London to protest against the planned development of the Rosebank oil and gas field, also used an audio clip from the film.

In the audio, Robbie's Barbie asks her fellow Barbies the existential question: “Do you guys ever think about dying?”.

Thunberg's video features the words: “Do you guys ever think about the climate crisis?” along with the names of British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, UK Energy Secretary Grant Shapps and energy company Equinor.

Demonstrators want the British government to abolish development of the Rosebank site, believed to be the UK’s largest undeveloped oil and gasfield.

Journalist Christiane Amanpour, known for her war reporting in the 1990s, also posted a photo of herself at a screening with the caption: “This Barbie is a war correspondent.”

First launched in 1959, Barbie is still the most popular doll on the market. Last year alone, Barbie dolls generated $1.49 billion in sales, according to data company Statista.

Barbies have also celebrated inspirational role models over the years.

A doll modelled on American fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad – the first hijabi Barbie – was launched in 2018 as part of the Barbie Shero line honouring women who break boundaries. Muhammad was the first American to compete at the Olympics while wearing a hijab, and won a bronze medal in fencing at the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro.

In 2019, in honour of Barbie's 60th anniversary and International Women’s Day, Mattel announced 20 new figures based on the likeness of prominent women, including activist and supermodel Adwoa Aboah; conservationist and daughter of the late “crocodile hunter” Steve Irwin, Bindi Irwin; actress, model and activist Yara Shahidi; tennis star Naomi Osaka; and film director Ava DuVernay.

British coronavirus vaccine developer Sarah Gilbert was honoured with a Barbie in 2021, while British primatologist Jane Goodall had a doll made in her likeness last year.

“I wanted a doll to be me even before this idea came up. I've seen little girls playing with Barbie dolls and certainly at the beginning, they were all very girlie-girlie, and I thought little girls need some choice,” Goodall said.

More recently in March, British scientist Maggie Aderin-Pocock, who's been praised for her contributions in making space and science accessible to girls, was also honoured with a doll.

Updated: July 31, 2023, 8:41 PM