Were we going to do Barbenheimer, my student sons asked earlier this summer. I’m never very well up on social media hypes, so I had to ask around. I could see why they would suggest a film about Oppenheimer: he was a fascinating scientist of huge historical significance. But Barbie? Did my sons even know what a Barbie doll was? I did once give them a baby doll, but they mainly liked throwing it, and they never graduated to a Barbie. I myself was a Barbie girl. It seemed too good to be true that my sons wanted to go to a Barbie film with me. So we went to see both Oppenheimer and Barbie. Oppenheimer was indeed tremendous. Barbie was completely different to what I expected. A really good night out – not just for me, but also for my four guys.
A lot has been written about it. Perfect Barbie lives in her perfect Barbieland with a load of other girls, all called Barbie. And then there are Kens, but they’re not so important. (I didn’t even have a Ken as a kid, because what use would he be?) Ultimately, the film has a feminist message, but mainly it’s a lot of fun.
Right from 1959, Barbies had careers – from stewardess to astronaut, before there even were female astronauts – and nowadays there’s a Barbie for every profession you can think of.
It seemed too good to be true that my boys wanted to go to a Barbie film with me
For a long time, her advanced freedom to choose a career went with just as much pressure to perform. She always looks perfect and her outfits and accessories are immaculate to the last detail. Now there are many inclusive variants of Barbie, but even ‘Curvy Barbie’ still looks perfect.
The lecture rooms will soon be full of first-year students. They are all beautiful. Young people, fizzing with expectation. I can’t remember all their names yet – I get them mixed up. But that will change. They’ll find out what they’re good at, what they like doing – and importantly, what they don’t like. My wish for them is that they develop their own style and preferences, without perfectionism or peer pressure. Who know, there might be an Oppenheimer among them.
Sjoukje Osinga (55) is an assistant professor of Information Technology. She sings alto in the Wageningen chamber choir Musica Vocale, has three sons who are students and enjoys birdwatching with her husband in the Binnenveldse Hooilanden.