Inclusivity: Where Barbie and Pickleball Intersect
America’s Favorite Childhood Pastime Has A Lot In Common With America’s New Favorite Sport
As we approach the debut of Warner Bros’ much-anticipated Barbie movie this Friday, there’s been a lot of chatter about Barbie, the feminist icon, Ken, and their sexual orientation. While theories of Ken possibly being gay have sparked curiosity beyond the toy department, this incredibly unique film-spectacle-production will most certainly have social channels lit up by the weekend’s end, after the movie’s messages on feminism, inclusivity, and representation have had a minute to sink in.
Margot Robbie, who stars as the title’s lead, set the record straight this week, clarifying in a recent interview with Stream Publishing’s Attitude that neither Ken nor Barbie could be represented as gay characters. When questioned about whether the world of Barbie is as inclusive as we'd hope for reality to be, Robbie responded: “It is, but they are all dolls. So, they don’t actually have sexual orientations because they don’t have any reproductive organs, we figured.”
“We wanted everyone to feel represented in the movie”, Robbie added. “We wanted Barbie Land to feel incredibly inclusive. And we wanted this film to feel like everyone was welcome. So, it was so important that, kind of, every person that was, like, coming aboard the party would be able to represent someone else that could be watching this movie.”
Robbie disclosed that the aspect of representation was a significant consideration during the casting process, which was centered more around the unique energy each actor could contribute, rather than ticking off predetermined checkboxes.
Now, you might be wondering: how does the Barbie brand fit into the world of pickleball?
The Inclusivity of Barbie’s World & Pickleball
Pickleball, celebrated for its inclusivity and social nature, resonates with individuals across all age groups – and who does that remind you of? Barbie and Ken, DUH!
We know what you’re thinking: of course Barbie and pickleball are two natural peas in a pod – just like Mission Impossible is a spitting image of the X-Games, Indiana Jones is a perfect match for Zumba at your local senior center, and Oppenheimer is a fit for… monster truck rallies?
The wide-range demographic appeal of Barbie resembles, in a way, some of the appeal that has made pickleball so generationally universal this past summer. The happy, hot pink appeal of Barbie Land is a lot like the allure of a pickleball court – with its bright yellows and greens, outdoor courts, and accessibility for all age groups to jump in and play. The Barbie movie’s multi-demographic attraction is drawing attention from all age groups, even if you’ve never played with Barbie or Ken, much like pickleball – even if you haven’t played, by now, you’ve definitely heard of it.
Boundaries are incredibly important to both Barbie and pickleball, in both a literal and emotional sense. In pickleball, there’s of course the “non-volley zone,” affectionately referred to as “the kitchen”, an off-limits zone that prevents aggressive close-net smashes, which reduces the need for swift responses and regulates the flow of the game.
Likewise, Greta Gerwig’s Barbie is rife with lessons on moral boundaries. Ignoring stereotypes and rebelling against the patriarchy is in-and-of itself establishing an Oprah-esque “Not here you don’t” attitude that has much more to do with anti-bullying than staying in the kitchen – a moral code of going to bat for yourself that’s necessary, literally, to succeed in any sport, as well as in the sport of life. Isn’t that why we all love sports? To see our heroes go to bat for themselves, despite the consequences of failure or blowback? Don’t we all long for a level playing field, where doing the right thing actually matters?
At its core, Pickleball is a pick-up sport; if there’s a court, you throw your racquet in the queue and join when it’s your turn. You jump-in and play by the rules. Everyone on the court knows this, even if nobody knows each other.
Pickleball and Barbie: Seeking a More Perfect Union
Like the world of Barbie, pickleball looks to break down barriers. As Barbie and her universe break down barriers of representation, pickleball is doing the same in the realm of sports, ensuring that the love for the game is not limited by physical attributes, age, skill, or gender. Like we all remember from Barbie Presents Thumbelina, “Even the smallest person can make a big difference.” So true, Barbie, so true.