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‘You can be anything’: A look at Barbie and ‘Barbie’

Ryan Gosling as Ken and Margot Robbie as Barbie in Greta Gerwig’s ‘Barbie.’
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
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Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
Ryan Gosling as Ken and Margot Robbie as Barbie in Greta Gerwig’s ‘Barbie.’

According to Mattel, more than a billion Barbie dolls have been sold since they launched the toy in 1959. Barbie and Ken are said to be the two most popular dolls in the world. It would be hard to overstate the influence — for better and worse — that the Barbie toy line has had on our culture.

And, you may have heard, there’s a movie. Greta Gerwig’s Barbie is just the 53rd movie to gross $1 billion at the box office, and it’s still the No. 1 movie in the country, nearly a month after its release.

So it’s not like Barbie’s influence is waning.

This hour, a look at our relationship with Barbie (and Ken), the history of Barbie and the woman who invented her, and, yes, the new movie Barbie.

Some other stuff that happened this week, give or take:

GUESTS:

  • Rebecca Castellani: Co-founder of Quiet Corner Communications and a freelance writer
  • Rand Richards Cooper: A fiction writer, contributing editor at Commonweal, and the restaurant critic for the Hartford Courant
  • Theresa Cramer: A freelance writer and editor and co-founder of Quiet Corner Communications
  • Robin Gerber: The author of several books, including Barbie and Ruth: The Story of the World’s Most Famous Doll and the Woman Who Created Her
  • James Hanley: Co-founder of Cinestudio at Trinity College
  • Rich Hollant: Principal at CO:LAB, founder of Free Center, and commissioner on cultural affairs for the city of Hartford
  • Michal Lev-Ram: Editor-at-large covering the technology and entertainment sectors for Fortune
  • Shawn Murray: A stand-up comedian, writer, and the host of the Nobody Asked Shawn podcast
  • Carolyn Paine: An actress, comedian, and dancer; she is founder, director, and choreographer of CONNetic Dance

The Colin McEnroe Show is available as a podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, TuneIn, Listen Notes, or wherever you get your podcasts. Subscribe and never miss an episode!

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Colin McEnroe, Betsy Kaplan, Josh Nilaya, Cat Pastor, Lily Tyson, and Chion Wolf contributed to this show, parts of which originally aired June 30, 2017; May 21, 2019; and July 28, 2023, in a different form.

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Jonathan is a producer for ‘The Colin McEnroe Show.’ His work has been heard nationally on NPR and locally on Connecticut Public’s talk shows and news magazines. He’s as likely to host a podcast on minor league baseball as he is to cover a presidential debate almost by accident. Jonathan can be reached at jmcnicol@ctpublic.org.
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