Last week marked the release of a film so dark and politically-charged, only those with a strong constitution should even attempt to watch it.

We’re talking, of course, about Barbie. Were you expecting something else?

Yes, Barbie, a movie drenched in pink and based on a doll made for children. The film, which stars Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling as the titular Barbie and her signature companion, Ken, has been the subject of a days-long meltdown from prominent right-wing pundits and Republican politicians, who have have decried the movie as feminist, communist, and leftist or woke indoctrination.

(If you want more on the Barbie meltdown, try this story from The New Republic.)

Of the responses, perhaps the most ridiculous came from the now-bearded Ben Shapiro, the co-founder of The Daily Wire. Shapiro was so outraged by the sinister summer flick that he purchased several of the dolls to burn in a trash can, marking the start of a bizarre 43-minute video he made criticizing the film.

The hysterics over Barbie are the latest in a long line of right-wing freak outs. In January, for example, right-wingers frothed and raged over a redesign of the cartoon green M&M mascot for the Mars candy, which downplayed some of its more exaggerated feminine features. The backlash prompted Mars to pull so-called “spokescandies" altogether ahead of its Super Bowl ad.

Silly as the predictable outrage may seem, the machine messaging that generates it should not be underestimated. We can all laugh at Ben Shapiro playing with dolls like an angry younger brother, but it’s important to remember that over the last few years, right-wing media, dark money groups, and Republican politicians have worked to create a moral panic—particularly around children—over the direction America is heading in culturally. This panic has had real and devastating consequences, spurring a wave of school book bans across the country and new state laws targeting LGBTQIA+ Americans. And of course, that is the goal.

For more on the right-wing outrage machine, check out this article from OptOut co-founder Walker Bragman’s Important Context (me) about the big money behind right-wing media.

More Barbie Content

  • For more about the movie, this critical review of the politics of Barbie from Defector. The piece puts the movie in the context of current Hollywood and notes, "It is a film aware of race, sexuality, ability, and beauty only as facets of aesthetic difference—it views representation as accessory, itself an interesting idea that [Greta] Gerwig and [Noah] Baumbach are too hemmed in or merely unimaginative to do anything with."
  • Something else about the movie worth mentioning is the fact that Barbie star Margot Robbie has backed the SAG-AFRTA strike. The Nation published a piece about Robbie's relationship with organized labor.

With that, please enjoy this week’s selection of top stories.

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Nativism in America

  • The GOP is once again stoking anti-immigrant sentiment, as the U.S. passed new legislation to ban public schools from sheltering migrants seeking asylum. States Newsroom had the story.
  • Related from States Newsroom: The GOP-run House Oversight and Accountability Committee held a hearing over the Biden administration allowing DACA recipients to enroll in Medicaid or private insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Check out the story here.
  • But even the Democrats leave much to be desired in terms of the humane treatment of migrants. In Blue New York City, for example, Mayor Eric Adams has announced new restrictions on migrants making use of the city’s shelter system. The new rules impose a 60-day time limit on shelter stays for adult migrants, City Limits reported.
  • Meanwhile, Documented published a story about how the Biden administration is working to keep the last ICE detention center in New Jersey open, and The Intercept reported that Border Patrol was caging migrants in Arizona outdoors during the state’s severe heatwave.
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Racism in America

  • This week, the Libertarian Party, which was founded with funding from the notorious John Birch Society-linked Koch brothers, exposed itself as a hub for racism. The saga began when former Ohio State Senator Nina Turner tweeted that insulin and medicine should be "free." The official account for the New Hampshire Libertarian Party quote-tweeted Turner, declaring "Nina Turner picking crops should be free." The outrageous statement was not enough to warrant condemnation by the national Libertarian Party, which doubled down on the remark after Turner confronted them about it. The New Republic had a good breakdown of the events.
  • Students in Florida will now learn that the institution of chattel slavery, that existed in North America for more than 250 years, benefitted Black people thanks to new African American history standards approved by the State Board of Education. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis defended the change which requires teaching that African Americans learned skills as slaves that could "be applied applied for their personal benefit.” The new standards were co-authored by a far-right activist and filmmaker. Progress Report had the scoop.
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