Is Barbie Speeding Up the Collapse of Trump’s Macho-Based Hate Movement?

by | Aug 21, 2023 | Opinions & Commentary

Photo by Elena Mishlanova

Is Barbie Speeding Up the Collapse of Trump’s Macho-Based Hate Movement?

by | Aug 21, 2023 | Opinions & Commentary

Photo by Elena Mishlanova

Given the brilliant screenplay, acting, and production values of the movie Barbie, it would be naïve not to think it’s had an impact on American consciousness. The question is, how big is that impact?

Republished with permission from Thom Hartmann

Have you noticed Americans are beginning to reject hate?

Trump’s popularity—even among Republicans—is dropping like a stone, and parents are beginning to show up in large numbers at school board meetings to talk back to bigots and haters.

MSNBC and CNN are filled with Republicans who have rejected Trump and hate. Increasingly, pastors are speaking out against Trump and hate.

Trump called for huge protests at his arraignments, but only a handful of people showed up, and the Wall Street Journal is calling for Republican presidential candidates to organize themselves in a way that will prevent Trump from becoming the GOP’s nominee again.

As investigative reporter Jordan Green notes over at Raw Story:

“On Telegram accounts linked to the Proud Boys, posts about the Maui wildfires—typically suggesting sinister causes or accusing the Biden administration of neglect—appear to outnumber references to the Trump indictment roughly four to one.”

The New York Times reports that even in the weeks before Fani Willis’ Fulton County indictment:

“A majority of Americans, in four recent polls, said Mr. Trump’s criminal cases were warranted.”

And democracy expert David Pepper points out on his excellent Substack blog Pepperspectives:

“Recent polls on Trump are brutal, with more than 60% saying they won’t vote for him in a general election.

“Recent elections in Ohio and Wisconsin confirm that the far right’s toxic brew of extremist policies and attacks on democracy are also deeply unpopular. Absolute losers at the polls.”

Political candidates who base their campaigns on hate are failing, and ordinary cordial discourse among Americans with different political views is beginning to return.

The media has noticed the trend, but they think it’s caused entirely by Trump’s legal troubles. While that’s no doubt a very large factor, I believe there’s also another force at work here: the movie Barbie.


Last week Louise got together with some “girlfriends”—including a few Trump supporters—for a Barbie Party. A group of boomer women all hanging out wearing pink and talking smack about “the patriarchy.”

Before you scoff, consider this:

  • The reason “shock therapy” (electro-convulsive therapy or ECT) fell out of favor in America wasn’t just because of the development of anti-depressive medications during that era: it was also because of the movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
  • Deer hunting collapsed as a sport in large part because of the Disney movie Bambi, and sociologists credit the film and it’s “Bambi Effect” with a rise in vegetarianism among boomers who were children when it came out (I sure still remember it, and my parents took me to see it during the film’s revival 66 years ago!).
  • Teaching evolution and contrasting it with creationism in American classrooms became acceptable as the result of the movie Inherit The Wind about the Scopes Monkey Trial.
  • The nationwide revival of the then-moribund Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s (leading to the Klan taking full political control of the State of Oregon that decade) was entirely attributable to D.W. Griffith’s movie Birth of a Nation.
  • The movie Jaws caused a drop (that lasted for years) in people willing to swim in the ocean, as well as an increase in shark hunting that has caused some species to become endangered.
  • The film Gone With The Wind, whitewashing the crimes of the Confederacy and the brutality of slavery, led to a revival in “Confederate Culture” that echoes across the South to this day.

Given this history, and the brilliant screenplay, acting, and production values of the movie Barbie, it would be naïve not to think it’s had an impact on American consciousness. The question is, how big is that impact?

A recent survey reported by The Hill found that fully 85 percent of conservatives who’d seen the movie Barbie said it increased their “awareness of the patriarchy at work.”

Fifty-seven percent of all viewers surveyed said the movie “improved their opinion of women in leadership.” The percentage of people surveyed who said that women were more effective leaders than men went from 19 percent before seeing the film to 29 percent after.

A movie ostensibly about a Mattel doll, it opens with a Barbie character proclaiming:

“In Barbieland, corporations are not people, and money is not considered protected free speech!”

From there the plot becomes even more progressive. Ken goes from the matriarchal Barbieland to the “real world” and brings back the idea of patriarchy, a cultural contagion that destroys Barbieland nearly as completely as Trump tried to destroy democracy in America. (I promise not to give away any more of the movie.)

The analogies between the transformations of Barbieland and the collapse of Trump’s macho-based movement are startling; it’s hard to imagine the screenwriters weren’t either influenced directly by it or at least by the same social forces that brought it about.

And it’s hard to overestimate how widespread the impact of the movie has been. It’s grossed over a billion dollars, and fully 22 percent of people who saw it hadn’t been to a movie in years.

Hopefully, this is the start of a trend like the one we saw during the latter Obama years.

Between 2013 and 2014, hate in America experienced a significant decline: in an “Intelligence Report” released in March, 2015, the Southern Poverty Law Center said, as CNN reported, “the number of hate groups operating in the U.S. declined 17% between 2013 and 2014.” They were, SPLC reported, at their lowest levels since 2005.

But then Donald Trump came down the escalator at Trump Tower and, like Satan opening his mouth and unleashing the hounds of hell, poured out a plume of hatred, bigotry, and a call for violence that has saturated our nation for nearly eight long years.

There was an immediate jump in hate crimes, a trend that continued and increased steadily right up until this year. The Washington Post summarized the phenomenon succinctly in a 2019 headline:

“Counties that hosted a 2016 Trump rally saw a 226 percent increase in hate crimes”

It’s premature to proclaim the era of Trump-fueled racism and hate over, but the sense I’m getting from doing a national radio and TV call-in talk show for the past 20 years is that America has begun its much-needed healing.

Perhaps most surprising, people who had previously called in to promote Trump and “conservative values” are increasingly telling me and my listeners that they’ve seen the light and want to work together to make America a better place for all.

Beth Felker Jones writes for Christianity Today that she’s seeing it in her family and her church community, as the twin sensations of Barbie and Taylor Swift’s tour (and Swift’s open disavowal of hate) sweep the nation:

“Movie theaters are full of families and groups of friends, dressed in pink and laughing together; the country’s biggest stadiums are packed out with a tiny slice of those who would have come to see Swift perform, had more tickets been available.”

She notes how the pandemic and America’s political differences pulled us apart for years; now, she writes, things are changing for her kids and others:

“Now they’re hungry for togetherness. They’re hungry for large-scale shared cultural events and wearing dress-up clothes in public.”

Whether it’s Barbie or the Trump prosecutions that have brought about what feels like the early stages of a sea-change in the American zeitgeist—or the perfect storm of the combination of the two around the same time—I’ll take it.

America is better for both!

Thom Hartmann

Thom Hartmann

Thom Hartmann, one of America’s leading public intellectuals and the country’s #1 progressive talk show host, writes fresh content six days a week. The Monday-Friday “Daily Take” articles are free to all, while paid subscribers receive a Saturday summary of the week’s news and, on Sunday, a chapter excerpt from one of his books.

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