Not long after news circulated that Amy Schumer was in talks to play the title role of Barbie in an upcoming live-action film, bored trolls took to the internet to do what they do best.
Twitter users giddily slammed Schumer, complaining she is too overweight, too loud and too “heinous to men” to play Barbie.
Suddenly guys around the globe, who prior to this casting news most certainly had zero opinions on the Mattel franchise, got on their high horses to defend the doll.
As usual, the trolls have it all wrong. Now, more than ever, Schumer is the perfect choice to play the iconic toy in this feminist reboot — and there’s a good chance that Ruth Handler, the creator of Barbie, would have felt the exact same way.
Handler, the daughter of Polish Jewish immigrants, came up with the idea for Barbie after watching her young daughter playing make believe with adult paper dolls.
“Every little girl needed a doll through which to project herself into her dream of her future,” the late businesswoman said in an interview with the New York Times.
Handler set about creating a toy that did just that.
The first Barbie manufactured stood at 11 and 1/2 inches, with yellow hair, a skimpy black and white bathing suit and red lips. Rumor has it that Handler tried to incorporate features of popular movie stars of the time, including Audrey Hepburn’s thick eyebrows.
Most importantly, though, Barbie had a chest.
“When I conceived Barbie, I believed it was important to a little girl’s self-esteem to play with a doll that has breasts,” Handler said.
Sure, she had an impossibly hour-glass body and was based off of Lilli, a German doll sold at adult novelty shops. But this seemed to be more a product of the beauty ideals at the time, not Handler’s own personal agenda.
“My whole philosophy of Barbie was that through the doll, the little girl could be anything she wanted to be,” Handler wrote in her 1994 autobiography, “Dream Doll: The Ruth Handler Story.” “Barbie always represented the fact that a woman has choices.”
Barbie’s first job was as a teen fashion model. In the 1960’s she switched gears and became the first woman to go to the moon. In the 1980’s, she was working in the boardroom as a CEO. By the 90’s, she was the first woman to run for president.
Barbie had managed to out-evolve the real world.
Today, the doll comes in a variety of body types, sizes and skin tones. “Barbie reflects the world girls see around them,” Richard Dickson, President and Chief Operating Officer of Mattel, said in a statement about the company’s latest updates.
There might have been a time when little girls dreamed about growing up to be Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe. Today, there are new types of women to look up to — and Amy Schumer is one of them. She’s funny, she’s multi-talented, she’s an intelligent writer, and, as she said when she won Glamour Woman of the Year, she’s 160 pounds and can “catch a dick whenever [she] wants.”
If Handler decided to create Barbie in 2016, I’d like to think she would be looking to today’s powerful, popular female celebrities like Schumer, Mindy Kaling, Beyonce and Tina Fey as inspiration.
Maybe Barbie will be African-American the next time her story is rebooted on film. Maybe she’ll be a lesbian in the one after that. Either way, I’m sure the angry internet community will have plenty to say — to which I advise them to take a real, hard look at the diverse, blissfully glass ceiling-less world the fashion doll now lives in. We just need to catch up.
Thea Glassman is an Associate Editor at the Forward. Reach her at email@example.com