"Barbie Girl" Is Still A Horribly Anti-Feminist '90s Pop Song 20 Years Later

Ad failed to load

Few songs were are infectious in the '90s as Danish-Norwegian group Aqua's "Barbie Girl." The song, brimming with '90s Euro dance-pop vibes, was on constant rotation when it came out back in 1997. For us young Millennials, "Barbie Girl" was probably just a silly song about a toy we all played with growing up. However, 20 years later, "Barbie Girl" is neither feminist or fun as we might remember. Something about it feels gross when you're listening to it, as if the innocence of a doll like Barbie shouldn't be associated with lyrics like, "I'm a blond bimbo girl in a fantasy world." Gross, right?

Let's be honest: we all got fooled by the cheeriness of the music that transported us into the world of "Barbie Girl." We were just young and carefree back in the '90s and this song knew it. Now, maybe it's because I'm a bit older and a bit wiser (just a bit), I find the "Barbie Girl" lyrics are much less in support of women choosing to do with their bodies and lives what they will; it's actually in opposition to the feminist ideas around female agency, independence, and empowered sexuality that Millennial women these days are being encouraged to embrace.

Let's examine the song that incurred a lawsuit: "Barbie Girl."

Ad failed to load
AquaVEVO on YouTube

Right off the bat, it's clear that the Aqua version of Barbie is going to be an oversexualized, idealized image of femininity whose vocabulary is rife with double entendre and innuendo. As Barbie and Ken say 'hi' to each other, Ken proceeds to suggest they go for a ride. He's driving a car but guys, I think we all know what kind of ride he's referring to.

The idea that Barbie's simply there for Ken's sexual pleasure is reinforced in the first verse, people.

Ad failed to load
I'm a blond, bimbo girl, in the fantasy world
Dress me up, make it tight, I'm your dolly
You're my doll, rock'n'roll, feel the glamour in pink
Ad failed to load
Kiss me here, touch me there, hanky panky

Those first two lines are sung by Barbie (aka Aqua's only female member, Lene Nystrøm) and Ken (aka the curiously coifed René Dif) take the last two lines. It's a weird establishment of the relationship between this musical version of Barbie and Ken, not to mention the fact that it wastes no time insinuating what Barbie's purpose is in this world.

That's right: Barbie has a pre-ordained purpose and — surprise! — is one that isn't for her personal benefit. It's for Ken's. It doesn't help that she demeans herself by branding herself a "bimbo," nor is it particularly feminist of Ken to try and control her sexually for his own pleasure. This is squicking me out.

Ad failed to load
Giphy

Right off the bat, "Barbie Girl" can alienate even the most lenient of feminists. Not only does the song throw out the word "bimbo" so happily and so casually, but then we get the sense that Ken is taking liberties with Barbie's encouragement to do with her whatever another person pleases. The uncomfortably saucy direction only gets weirder in the second verse, where Barbie tells us she's happy with whatever clothes you dress her in or even how you manipulate her body.

Make me walk, make me talk,
Ad failed to load
Do whatever you please
I can act like a star, I can beg on my knees
Come jump in, bimbo friend, let us do it again
Ad failed to load
Hit the town, fool around, let's go party

Pardon me while I go puke forever. "Barbie Girl" might actually be the most repugnant '90s song of all time. Never mind that Barbie is insinuating she'll perform oral sex for approval, but the fact that this is sung by a woman who is practically chirping with cheer makes the message feel even more crass and un-feminist.

Giphy
Ad failed to load

Let's not kid ourselves about the hook and chorus. It's the crown jewel in this hot mess of reductive feminism.

You can touch
You can play
Ad failed to load
If you say
I'm always yours
I'm a Barbie girl, in the Barbie world
Ad failed to load
Life in plastic, it's fantastic
You can brush my hair, undress me everywhere
Imagination, life is your creation
Ad failed to load

This is peak mixed messaging in the world of "Barbie Girl." Where objectification and hypersexualization are king, this hook and chorus combine with the result effect of a serious stomach churn. Barbie is giving herself over to someone else completely. She doesn't allude to having thoughts, feelings, or desires of her own. She rejoices at a plastic life but fails to give us any reason to believe that life is fulfilling her needs on a real level.

Oh, and before you try to tell me that the, "imagination, life is your creation" line is a silver lining, stop yourself. That's not about Barbie telling us that if we lived like Barbie, we'd feel more fulfilled or creative because that quality of life is better. No, it's because Barbie wants us to mess around with her, manipulate her, and make her over in some commodified and cheapened image for our own pleasure.

It. Is. Gross.

Ad failed to load
Giphy

Unlike other actually feminist properties that use stereotypically girly female characters to subvert expectations and make smart feminist commentary (I'm looking at you, Legally Blonde), "Barbie Girl" feels hollow and discomfiting. Devoid of any real meaning about what it's like to be a woman in a world that seeks to objectify us, dripping in sexual innuendo that only serves the male gaze, and yes, lackluster in the empowerment department, "Barbie Girl" fails to offer women anything fun or fresh on its 20th birthday.

We may have all be sucked in by the effervescence of "Barbie Girl" back in 1997, but hindsight is 20/20. Contrary to the happy ending (oh god, the double entendres have gotten to me) foretold for both you and Barbie should you choose to play with her, there's nothing fun or feminist about this song.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

Here's Your Horoscope For Memorial Day Weekend

We’re constantly fascinated by what our zodiac sign says about our lives, whether it's which signs are most compatible or how each sign handles conflict in relationships. That's why Bustle has enlisted Mecca Woods, a New York City-based astrologer of…
By Mecca Woods

These Are The Absolute Best Memorial Day Sales This Year

Get your credit cards ready, because this year's fashion and beauty Memorial Day sales might just be the best ones yet. There's not only major savings for the holiday, but some of the savings start days before. You know, so you can spend the entire w…
By Kali Borovic

Everything Leaving & Coming To Netflix In June To Help Get Your Summer Started

Summer is right around the corner, and so is another batch of streaming options to get excited about. On Wednesday, everything leaving and coming to Netflix in June 2018 was announced by the streaming platform. And don't worry, there's something for …
By Jamie Primeau

These Are The Beauty Products That Came Out In May That You DEFINITELY Need On Your Radar

For beauty lovers, months aren't just months: They're 28 to 31 day periods, wherein any and all product and brand launches can happen — and when they do, it feels like your birthday, no matter what time of the year you were actually born. The May 201…
By Amanda Richards

The 5 Rom-Coms You Need To Read This Summer, According To Someone Who Writes Them

'Tis the season for rom-coms. The weather is warm, the sun is shining, and everyone is rocking the flirtiest items in their wardrobe. I don't know about you, but summer always takes me back to my teenage years — and that automatically makes me want t…
By Cristina Arreola

11 Tiny Sunglasses That Will Make You Look Even Cooler Than Kylie Jenner

You know what they say — the tinier the sunglasses, the more stylish the outfit. OK, that's not really a saying, but it seems to be the case these days. Basically every celebrity, model, and It person has been spotted sporting tiny sunglasses as part…
By Sara Tan

I've Paid $18,000 To A $24,000 Student Loan, & I Still Owe $24,000

It all became real the summer before my senior year of college. It was 2010, and my home phone still had a cord, which I wrapped around my fingers as I waited not-so-patiently for the apathetic representative on the other end to tell me the bad news …
By Kaitlyn Cawley

12 Personality Quizzes That Will Help You Determine Your Exact Strengths

Learning more about yourself can be tough. It's so easy to observe others to learn what makes them tick, what areas they really excel in, and the things they could be better at. Doing that to yourself, however, is a whole different story. That's exac…
By Jessica Booth

5 Brand New Short Story Collections You Can Finish In One Sitting This Weekend

Since 2013, May has been known by book-lovers by another name: Short Story Month. If you're ready to kick off this year's celebration the right way, make sure to pick up a short story collection to read over the weekend. Modern life moves more than …
By Sadie Trombetta

I Got Styled By 'Queer Eye's Tan France & Realized I Still Have A Lot Of Fashion "Rules" To Unlearn

When I walked into a New York City Express store on May 2 to get styled by Queer Eye's Tan France, I was ready for anything. And I mean truly anything. I am such a massive fan of the show and Tan that if he had instructed me to wrap myself in tin foi…
By Olivia Muenter

It Isn’t Bad To Have A “Princess Fantasy” — Mine Made Me The Woman I Am Today

What do you want to be when you grow up? If you were anything like me as a kid, at some point, the answer to that question was "a princess." Thanks to good old-fashioned gender stereotypes, most little girls born in the '90s (and even now) grew up in…
By Nicole Pomarico

Here’s How To Get A FREE 30-Minute Facial At Sephora That Sucks Your Pores Clean

Sephora has long been a mecca for both serious and amateur beauty lovers alike, where they not only have makeup artists that help answer questions about products, but free samples to let you play with new collections. But now they have upped the ante…
By Marlen Komar

Kris Jenner Is FINALLY Launching A Makeup Line With Kylie

Maybe you don't have a favorite sister of the Kar-Jenner clan, and that's perfectly fine. The one thing you can't deny, though, is that when it comes power, no one in that family has more than the world famous momager. Now, Kris Jenner x Kylie Cosmet…
By Shea Simmons

This Kendall Jenner “Diva” Moment Is Really Being Taken Out Of Context

The fashion always takes center stage at the Met Gala, but there's usually a little drama, too. And this time, a member of the Kardashian-Jenner family is involved. People are buzzing about how Kendall Jenner shoved someone at the Met Gala, but after…
By Nicole Pomarico

Feel Like You've Seen Everything On Netflix? Add These Movies To Your Watch List

The weekend may feel too far away, but if you're lacking formal plans, a Netflix marathon session is always a good idea. If you're an avid viewer, however, you probably feel like you've seen everything the streaming platform has to offer already. In …
By Ashley Rey

Hillary Clinton Says She's Ready To Fight Like A Republican — EXCLUSIVE

Hillary Clinton Is Not Going Away Quietly. Can Hillary Clinton Please Go Quietly Into The Night? Unlike Losers Before Her, Clinton Is Not Going Gently Into the Night. These headlines, which appeared in various news outlets over the course of the last…
By Catherine Thompson and Jenny Hollander

Here's The Very Best Time To Book Your Summer Vacation If You're Trying To Save Money

Summer is a great time to travel, for obvious reasons. The weather is better. Many offices are more lax about time off. If you have kids, they’re out of school. But there’s one very important element that makes summer not a great time to travel: Cost…
By Emma McGowan
)}