Living in the pastiche: from Barbieland to Computer World, all the world’s a paste
Johanna Gibson
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The artist and costume designer, Edward Gorey, once said, ‘I tend to think life is pastiche. I’m not sure what it’s a pastiche of … we haven’t found out yet.’1 The kind of referentiality of which Gorey is speaking is a fundamental character of film worlds, but it is also something which is, or should be, at the heart of copyright industries. Rather than an exception, pastiche arguably characterizes all creative works. To say this is not to empty the term of meaning, but rather, to acknowledge the legacy of sources in any work. The art of pastiche might facilitate a greater culture of attribution and stewardship in copyright industries, a culture to be found within the architecture of the law itself, all to the benefit of sampling, citation, irony, and other mimetic forces in our cultural histories. Recently, another chapter in the sampling saga of Pelham2 was getting underway, when the German Federal Court of Justice (Bundesgerichtschof BGH) referred the question of pastiche to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU).3 For post-Brexit UK, the CJEU’s response obviously will not be binding, but it is certainly gripping. Alongside the expectant waiting for an answer, this reference prompts some important and wider questions of copyright. How citational might the law anticipate creativity to be? And how might a meaningful application of pastiche confer upon copyright a potential value as part of a wider motivation and invigoration of cultural heritage? But this is not a piece about Pelham and Kraftwerk. Not yet. Before we get to the music lessons, there is time to play.

PASTICHE IS EVERYTHING

In case anyone has been completely off grid, one of the two biggest films this past summer was Barbie,4 directed by Greta Gerwig, and starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling in the lead roles of Barbie and Ken. The other was, of course, Oppenheimer,5 and together they achieved the monumental marketing phenomenon known by the portmanteau, ‘Barbenheimer’.6 But Barbenheimer is just the beginning of the elaborate pastiche of Mattel’s Universe, which anticipates and immediately assimilates attempts to exist outside Barbieland. As the trailer invites, ‘If you love Barbie this movie is for you’ and ‘If you hate Barbie this movie is for you.’7 It seems there is no way outside the world of Barbie. And this has been extremely lucrative for Mattel both through the film and the subsequent merchandising bonanza and a 16 per cent increase in sales in the third quarter of 2023,8 and an all too often unspoken amount of pollution from plastic dolls and their packaging.9

In addition to the portmanteau pastiche of Barbenheimer, Barbie is itself held together by its references. As well as the landscape of Mattel products, there are also numerous references to Warner Bros intellectual property. The pastiche in Barbie does not necessarily raise a question of copying, because it is a kind of vainglorious self-referencing, a gluttonous narcissism of branding. But it is this boastful pastiche that insists on understanding the cultural form more clearly, not only in film, but also in creative forms more widely, and in marketing through copyright more triumphantly. Within the bragging rights in Barbie, in every sense, is an introduction to pastiche at its least subtle, and at its most conspicuous and flamboyant. And if you miss it, the staging will quickly point it out to you. Barbie serves pastiche in a carefully curated form10 and the surrounding marketing supplies the audience with all the necessary viewing instructions.11 By considering the very particular example of pastiche in Barbie, there is a specific opportunity to develop a grammar of pastiche that offers a fluency for the law as well as a clarification of the purpose. For Barbie, pastiche is not only a slick branding device, but also a self-referencing that immediately presents itself as always already art. But this pastiche operates beyond the work and into the domain of marketing. The question then, as far as the law is concerned, is whether that dialogue with product will always be fair? Barbie (not Ken) will show you how. And yes, there will be spoilers.

A BARBIE WORLD

Barbie quickly became the highest-grossing film of 2023 in the United States and worldwide, and is the most successful release, domestically and globally, in the history of Warner Bros.12 On the first day of its US release, Barbie grossed over US$70 million and to date its worldwide gross is almost US$1.5 billion. Barbie is a major production of Warner Bros, together with Heyday Films, NBGG Pictures (Noam Baumbach and Greta Gerwig), Mattel Films, and Margot Robbie’s own production company, LuckyChap Entertainment. Indeed, one of LuckyChap’s potential future projects, currently in pre-production, is Ken & Barbie,13 for which very little further information is available other than its description in the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) as a fantasy, live-action feature film.14

But a Barbie franchise in the making is not the only intellectual property propelling this juggernaut. The film itself is a merchandising melange of Mattel products, and a production pastiche of Warner Bros intellectual property. The very fact that the film is about one of Mattel’s most successful toys prompted early expectations of a plot about intellectual property. After a still of Will Ferrell on roller blades was published during the prolonged marketing hype before the film’s release, one commentator speculated: ‘Is Ferrell trying to steal Barbie and Ken’s IP?’15 It is indeed a movie about intellectual property, just not as those commentators may have suspected.

But as well as a movie about its filmmakers’ intellectual property, it is also a movie powered by intellectual property and sold by it. The presentation of the Mattel and Warner Bros catalogues is key. In its particular engagement of pastiche as a form, Barbie is a movie ultimately validated by its emphasis on tribute and product reverence, rather than derailed by it. And its perhaps obvious advertising seems ultimately to be validated by the cinematic, through the novelty of pastiche. Whether or not the parade of Mattel products and Warner Bros productions is considered a slick marketing inventory, its presentation through this cinematic pastiche of intellectual property products and sources ultimately seems to give form to branding as art. Pastiche presents the display as homage rather than hoarding. And as a cultural form, pastiche lends an aesthetic quality to what is otherwise a product line. As such, pastiche appears to displace the consumer context not merely by suggesting consumption as art, but by actually obscuring that consumption altogether, and, with that, validating the apparent abandonment of critical thinking on sustainability, plastics, and the brand gluttony that followed. Right from the outset, we are confronted by multiple Barbies, presented as the proliferation of diversity, but really creating a remarkable and insatiable consumer desire. Even the vintage black and white swimsuit in which Barbie first appears, both in 1959 and in the movie, is now being churned out by fast fashion brand Zara,16 with which, in another apparent disconnection from the narrative on sustainability, Mattel is collaborating on a range of clothing inspired by the film.17 And the collaborations do not stop at fast fashion. Mattel has reportedly agreed around 100 different licensing agreements with various brands,18 thus capitalizing upon the intellectual property in Barbie and the expansion of this universe through the film. In Barbieland, Barbie has become, quite literally, the whole landscape. Barbie is everything.

Of course, this apparent consequence of audiences gorging on product is not a reflection on the artistic credentials of the film itself, but it does point to the enormous power of pastiche in marketing, and why this kind of use in film and in other forms should garner more attention. Barbie provides unusual insight into the critical distinction between pastiche that is ‘for the purpose of’19 pastiche, and pastiche that is for the purpose of generating and marketing something entirely other than the relation to the imitated property; in other words, an imitation that is not for the purpose of pastiche at all. While Barbie is of course an example of this phenomenon in relation to a pastiche of the production companies’ own intellectual property, the relations provide insight into the critical distinction between a use that is in significant communication with the source, and thus fair, and a use that is instead expropriated into a completely separate commercial relationship. In other words, this results in what might be considered a ‘dishonest’ copying in respect of the purpose; that is, it is a kind of enrichment that is potentially unjust in that it is completely apart from any dialogue between the works. And that means that the pastiche may not be pastiche at all within the perspective of the law.

THE WORLD’S MATTEL

Mattel’s Barbie dolls have been subject to extensive scholarly treatment and study over the decades since their introduction in 1959.20 And Mattel has been conscientious in using its intellectual property to police Barbie’s celebrity image. Ken is presented in the film as existing only for Barbie’s gaze, and ‘only has a good day when Barbie looks at him’. But in reality, Mattel’s male doll functions to look at Barbie and to attest to her desirability, aesthetic and economic. Nevertheless, decades of social critique of Mattel’s doll are seemingly dealt with swiftly by America Ferrera’s character (Gloria) and her pre-emptive strike when she proclaims in her rallying speech on the impossibility of being a woman, ‘And if all of that is also true for a doll just representing a woman, then I don’t even know.’21 Suddenly Barbie is a victim, rather than a product.

Subversive play becomes another marketing opportunity. Barbies have always been ‘deformed’ by children cutting their hair or painting their faces and subjecting them to a number of other modifications in which, through play, Barbie’s aesthetic ideal is challenged. Despite this ‘material play’, Trinna Frever considers that Barbie remains inseparable ‘from her gender, racial, and consumerist contextual associations’, arguing that the doll is instead ‘an implicit reinforcer of whiteness, blondeness, female helplessness, and stereotypical female beauty, even though such characteristics are made malleable by children’s play’.22 In studies of tween Barbie play, researchers found that ‘a favorite transformation activity was to cut the doll’s hair, and then to put various items in the new, short hair’.23 But again, as far as the recent marketing is concerned, this subversive play has been reappropriated, assimilated, recuperated, and re-packaged within the all-encompassing Mattel campaign. Weird Barbie, as constructed by Mattel, can be yours for £51, if only they had not sold out already.

PRODUCT PASTICHE

In the way that the art of pastiche is engaged throughout in order to showcase Mattel product, to some extent it also disguises the commercial parade of merchandise as poetic irony. Aside from obvious engagement with the Mattel typeface, Barbie pink, and a catalogue of Barbie dolls, the voyage back to the real world sets out the range of Barbie vehicular accessories, presented as advertising posters in Weird Barbie’s guidebook for the trip. And when Ken throws Barbie out of the Dreamhouse, now Ken’s Mojo Dojo Casa House, a series of outfits are frozen and merchandised on-screen as they fly through the air.24 It may be a parodic absurdity, until America Ferrera’s character restores the economic manipulation by exclaiming, ‘These are archival!’ Even Barbie’s brief depression is commodified and packaged through a stereotype of sweatpants, eating, anxiety, panic attacks, and OCD. However, this Barbie does not appear to be available on Mattel’s website, at least not yet.

Barbie’s selection of her daily outfit is said to be a reference to the so-called closet sequence from Clueless,25 where Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone) selects her outfit for school from a closet inventory computer programme. However, this is not so much a pastiche as an alliance. Much of this comes from the behind-the-scenes pre-marketing, where Robbie explains, ‘This was a design thing that we were very excited about. We were saying that the wardrobe in Clueless, like, the bar was set so high, and we would really like to do something that is as cool as that.’26 Gerwig describes the wardrobe as referencing the actual transactional experience in a toy store and the generation of consumer desire in children: ‘So, emotionally, just remembering standing in Toys R Us looking [at] Barbies with the plastic sheet over it and everything, and you wanted to take it off, and take everything apart, and touch everything.’27 Barbie’s dressing sequence takes the audience through available product, with Barbie’s wardrobe being composed of the actual presentation box within which a daily outfit is curated, just as it is when it is merchandised. The production designer, Sarah Greenwood explains, ‘Just talking about Greta wanting to go inside the box, that’s actually Barbie’s wardrobe.’28

The wardrobe sequence in particular is thus a very distant reference to Clueless if a reference at all. It would seem, if anything, that the Barbie wardrobe sequence, and indeed the film overall, is much more reminiscent of the careful introduction of domestic products to a European audience through the Marshall Plan after World War II.29 The use of the movie to market Mattel merchandise is similar to the use of film to create European desire for United States domestic product exports, such as bedroom suites that allow you to ‘Live Like Lucy’30 or ‘Lux soap’31 and other household goods that allow you to become ‘the modern woman’, as represented and endorsed by Doris Day.32 This becomes even more striking given Gerwig’s stated references to the so-called Golden Age of Hollywood with its artificial backdrops and large soundstage musicals, such as Singin’ in the Rain,33 An American in Paris,34 and other post-war Hollywood productions that were all part of this period of economic recovery through film, and the cinematic dissemination of a US consumer identity throughout Europe. Indeed, the journey back to Barbieland is accompanied by Gloria’s retelling of her personal history of consumption as she recounts various product stories, such as losing Barbie’s fur boots and wanting to buy a whole new doll to replace them, declaring Stereotypical Barbie to be her favourite Barbie, never getting a Ken, and saving up her allowance to buy Skipper’s Treehouse. The pastiche of products in her personal story re-presents the consumption as art.

And what about the pastiche of production references? This too makes sense by looking back to the industry’s post-war strategy also in relation to the distribution of Hollywood film product in the European market.

PRODUCTION PASTICHE

First there are the various references to Warner Bros intellectual property that are incorporated in the film, most notable of which are the several references to Kubrick films that now form The Stanley Kubrick Collection distributed by Warner. The most pronounced is the extended homage to 2001: A Space Odyssey.35 In 2001 the apes discover tools in what plays out as a kind of evolutionary and cultural emancipation, albeit a violent and deadly one. In what might be considered something of a parody, in Barbie the tools are replaced by baby dolls being played with by a group of girls (who all appear to be white). Barbie appears as a giant doll (in place of the alien’s monolith in 2001) prompting a mix of curiosity and fear among the girls. Barbie then lowers her sunglasses to wink at the girls, at which point the girls start smashing the baby dolls to pieces. It is difficult at this point, in this feast of Kubrick references,36 not to see Barbie’s lowering of her sunglasses as a reference to Lolita,37 but curiously or otherwise this particular Kubrick film is never acknowledged in the surrounding press. Nevertheless, from this reference to 2001, are we to understand Barbie as a tool of (specifically girls’ and even more specifically, white girls’) emancipation? Are the children discovering tools or destroying competitors’ products? The professed feminist message seems almost inextricable from the marketing one. Helen Mirren’s narration at first explicitly endorses this: ‘Because Barbie can be anything, women can be anything. And this has been reflected back to the little girls of today in the real world.’ Barbie creates women. But Mirren’s claim is quickly revealed as somewhat ironic when she declares, ‘Thanks to Barbie, all problems of feminism and equal rights have been solved!’ Pastiche or parody? Homage or humour? The message is somewhat contorted and distorted within the Kubrick tribute, and already the interaction between parody and pastiche forecasts the difficulty not only for audiences but also for the law.

The various Warner Bros references that can be identified throughout the film have also been cited in the surrounding publicity. These include The Wizard of Oz, a major piece of their intellectual property, which the company has sought to protect strenuously over the years.38 There are also various and explicit references to the Matrix franchise,39 from Barbie’s Birkenstock-based red pill, through to the Oracle-like presentation of Ruth Handler in her kitchen within the Mattel building. And Gerwig has acknowledged the playful set design and prop mechanics of Pee-wee’s Big Adventure.40 The Warner Bros Discovery Building can even be seen in the skyline through the windows of the Mattel Board Room, behind the Mattel CEO (Will Ferrell). And when the Kens take over briefly, the stockroom manager announces that Warner Bros has started auditions for the forthcoming Ken movie, which is already a blockbuster hit.

Ken’s FauxJo Mojo Mink coat is widely described as a reference to Sylvester Stallone and the Rocky franchise,41 as explicitly presented in the building lobby that Ken visits during his day in Century City, when he receives his introduction to patriarchy. Warner Bros is a distributor for the Rocky franchise, as well as one of the production companies for the spin-off Creed franchise.42 The fur coat in question was also part of Sylvester Stallone’s personal wardrobe, its use for Ken thus referencing not only the film franchise but also the performer, Stallone.43 But the reference may just as easily be doubly resonant, in that it also recalls the white fur appropriated by Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) in the opening con that introduces her skills in Oceans 8,44 an instalment in the key Warner Bros intellectual property, the Ocean’s franchise.45 This becomes even more compelling in the light of one of Margot Robbie’s forthcoming projects currently in production – an as yet untitled contribution to the Ocean’s franchise.46 This forthcoming Ocean’s production presents another curious reference of the performers themselves in that, in addition to producing, Robbie is also set to star alongside a (rumoured) Ryan Gosling.47 As for performers as a property of imitation, a proficiency in pastiche makes for a comprehensible studio system logic when it comes to contemporary star franchises. The fur coat costume reference offers an enticing thread, but is it in service of the film work, or the forthcoming production intellectual property, or the subsequent product merchandise? After all, you can now buy from Mattel a collectible Ken doll in that same coat for £119.99 – or at least you could, until it sold out while writing this piece. But do not despair, there are promises of more soon.

Another significant catalogue of intellectual property comes from MGM, a new international partner of Warner Bros,48 including, in particular, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Singin’ in the Rain. There is also considerable engagement with Paramount intellectual property, including the beach volleyball game in Top Gun,49 the dance sequences of Saturday Night Fever,50 and even the musical reference of the guitar ‘shwing’ in Wayne’s World.51 But only Grease52 and The Godfather53 (as well as Brando’s image rights), where footage from the films was actually used, are mentioned in the licensing credits. A clip from Grease features in Ken’s patriarchy montage, and The Godfather features prominently as a key cultural property in Kendom as well as an important plot device in de-programming the Barbies. Everything else in (Barbie) life, it seems, is pastiche.

DIRECTORIAL TERMS OF REFERENCE

But what is perhaps even more curious and striking about the pastiche of productions is the way in which they have been used so diligently in the marketing of the film. Gerwig has provided several interviews, always carrying a notebook, in which she continues to emphasise the filmic references and sources of inspiration as instrumental to understanding the film. This includes the publication of Greta Gerwig’s Official Barbie Watchlist,54 in which Gerwig explains the influences through a ‘comprehensive list of 29 films that inspired Barbie [which] rose to 33 by the end of her interview’.55 It is difficult to recall another film marketed in a similar way, and indeed I cannot think of another example of such a comprehensive list provided in the service of film authorship. It illustrates in part the deployment of an artistic pastiche in order to imbue Barbie with an appropriate cinematic pedigree such that it might be taken ‘seriously’ as a film. But it also seems to be about a kind of imperative placed on a woman director to explain her place in cinematic history, positioning her work within that legacy. At the same time, as well as endorsing and sustaining the explanation of references, the industry press was also reinforcing the narrative of the auteur, straining to define a Gerwig style,56 and thus engaging in the same narrative maintained more generally through Hollywood, film criticism, and the law.57 But perhaps the pastiche of attribution, more appropriately, might be found through the works themselves? And it is in that sense that Gerwig’s most critical engagement with the industry might be found. It could be argued that this painstaking referencing through a very specific list of sources belies an apparent deference to a legacy of mostly male directors. But this pastiche that is insisted upon, not only in the film but also in the surrounding discourse, might suggest a much more culturally dynamic engagement. That is, is the feminist act or message in Barbie to be found more clearly in the repeated referencing of sources, and pastiche of contributions, unravelling the mythology of the auteur? Pastiche challenges the auteurism of the law, not through a disregard of sources, but rather through a careful stewardship. And this has important social and cultural implications.

Indeed, film is perhaps the superior form in which to understand and appreciate pastiche. Film itself is a highly self-referential medium. Arguably this is in part to do with how audiences came to be proficient in viewing film, and ultimately, how fandoms began to thrive in the links between works. But it is also to do with the fact that film is, in many respects, a very recent cultural form. And as such, it continues to be somewhat self-conscious about its positioning as art, both within the law and more widely. Gerwig’s notebook of sources suggests both an additional responsibility on the woman director to provide credentials, and at the same time an almost exhaustive effort to establish Barbie as art over advertising. However, in many respects, Gerwig’s notebook is also what all art should be doing; that is, offering up its mentors and influences not only to scrutiny but also to a stewardship of ideas, and, in the process, providing a rich vocabulary for other users. Pastiche is not only an aesthetic tool, but also a powerful policy and cultural repository, and a vehicle for the creative might of play.

FROM BARBIELAND TO COMPUTER WORLD

Speaking of play, the discussion now returns to Kraftwerk. It may come as no surprise that Mattel might have a stake, at least in terms of cultural history, in the music of Kraftwerk. Kraftwerk has been playing with Mattel for some time. In fact, Ralf Hütter can be seen playing Mattel’s electronic music synthesizer toy in the video for ‘Pocket Calculator’,58 a single from the album, Computer World.59 The synthesizer toy was a Bee Gees branded toy known as the ‘Rhythm Machine’ and was released in 1978.60 Notably, the toy is another example of Mattel’s long history with marketing through film, because the toy was actually created following the success of Saturday Night Fever.61 Barbie of course references Saturday Night Fever, but in an apparent missed opportunity for Mattel, Ken’s synthesizer in Kendom is in fact a Yamaha. We could have all so easily been knocking out hits on the Bee Gees Rhythm Machine this Christmas! The band reportedly also used Mattel’s Synsonics, a drum machine toy released by Mattel Electronics in 1981.62 And Kraftwerk themselves even became (unofficially) Ken dolls when German artist and sculptor, Dirk Roessler, fashioned heads and classic stage outfits for four Ken dolls to create Kraftwerk action figures.63 There is certainly a long history of play with Kraftwerk.

But when it came to the two second sample of ‘Metall auf Metall’64 that subsequently appeared in ‘Nur mir’,65 that playfulness gave way to over two decades and counting of legal wrangling. While to date the available exceptions have been rejected by the German Federal Court of Justice (BGH) for a failure of communication between the works,66 the reference on the question of pastiche is interesting. In arriving at this decision, the court cited the Opinion of Advocate General Szpunar in which it was argued that ‘the quotation must be incorporated into the quoting work so that it may be easily distinguished as a foreign element’, because otherwise ‘how could the quoting work enter into dialogue with or be compared to the work quoted if the two are indissociable from one another?’67 In other words, it is an imitation, but it is an honest imitation, ‘a kind of imitation that you are meant to know is an imitation’.68 It is thus made without any intention to disguise or deceive. This is not, however, to require a disjunctive relationship between the elements, but rather, a clear citation, as it were. This distinction is important and is a function of recognition and audience. If it were otherwise, then sampling would almost invariably always be incapable of constituting a quotation. In some respects, the Advocate General is pointing to the traditional understanding of parody and pastiche as introducing an element of the absurd or exaggeration. But in some respects, the very dislocation of a Kraftwerk sequence into a German pop rap song is already absurd.

WHEN KRAFTWERK MET BARBIE

In this respect, film is once again instructive. The referentiality and intertextuality so characteristic of film present identifiable and yet cooperative elements that go to the very value of that intertextuality and to the meaning of film. The dialogue is in and of itself citational in film; that is, through the audience recognition, joy, and indeed play, that self-conscious referentiality in film is enlivened. On the other hand, the courts seem less able to recognize an application of the exceptions to sampling, other than in the circumstances of an overt dialogue in music – a kind of Barbie pastiche, as it were. Perhaps audiences in film are more experienced in intertextuality, whether funny or not, because it has always been part of filmmaking and film history. Sampling in music, on the other hand, has been disparaged (not unlike parody) and relegated to a marginal expression of particular genres and sub-cultures, rather than celebrated as art. The question is whether this surrounding socio-cultural discourse also influences the resistance to applying the exceptions in music in law. Why is pastiche respected in the visual arts, in film, and even in Barbie, but suspected in music? Does copyright have a cultural bias?

As for humour, that is a whole other tragedy in the making for music. Does pastiche have to be funny? Certainly, in the history of literature, art, and film, it does not.69 But when it comes to the law, the application of the exception is potentially troubling. Our only judicial guidance to date is the decision in Shazam,70 which rejects interpreting pastiche ‘too broadly’, maintaining that to do so ‘would also mean that s30A would become a general fair use provision which is not what either the Info Soc Directive or section 30A intends’.71 But is this the correct approach? Surely the concept of pastiche is not where the narrowing should occur; rather, it should be applied in the understanding of ‘for the purpose of’. If it is pastiche that is not for the purpose of pastiche, as it were, then it cannot be fair.72

In other words, the area of scrutiny must be the quality of the dialogue between the works, the dialogue for which the exception serves. That scrutiny should ask first, is it pastiche? And then, is it for the purpose of pastiche? As far as the second part is concerned, an expropriation of properties wholly apart from any original dialogue between the works can never be pastiche for the purposes of the exception. In other words, this approach has something in common with the application of purpose to decisions on fair use in the United States. And again, Barbie shows us. The elaborate pastiche within Barbie is one thing, but once there is a rip in the space-time continuum and that pastiche moves beyond Barbieland and into the real world, beyond the world of the work and into a wholly separate economic manipulation, then that may not be for the purpose of pastiche at all. That is, it may not be about the essential dialogue for which the exception serves.

Thus, we should be cautious about narrowing the concept of pastiche beyond its functional and aesthetic meaning simply in order to coerce it within the dimensions of the law. Rather, we should focus on the purpose of the imitation and ask of the exception, what was it made for?73

November 2023

  • 1

    Gorey Edward & Wilkin Karen , Ascending Peculiarity: Edward Gorey on Edward Gorey. Interviews Selected and Edited by Karen Wilkin , (Harvest Books , 2001 ) 194.

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  • 2

    C-590/23 Pelham.

  • 3

    Metall auf Metall V (I ZR 74/22), 14 September 2023. See press release <https://www.bundesgerichtshof.de/SharedDocs/Pressemitteilungen/DE/2023/2023157.html>.

  • 4

    Barbie (2023), dir Greta Gerwig, producers Tom Ackerley, Robbie Brenner, David Heyman, and Margot Robbie (also in title role), writers Greta Gerwig and Noam Baumbach.

  • 5

    Oppenheimer (2023), dir Christopher Nolan, producers Christopher Nolan, Charles Roven, and Emma Thomas, writers Christopher Nolan (screenplay) and Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin (authors of the book source for the adaptation, American Prometheus (2005)).

  • 6

    Jill Goldsmith, ‘Barbenheimer’ was ‘delightful surprise’ to Warner Bros, Deadline, 18 October 2023 <https://deadline.com/2023/10/barbenheimer-barbie-warner-bros-pictures-advertising-week-1235576849/>.

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  • 7

    Main Trailer, Barbie (2023), available at <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pBk4NYhWNMM>.

  • 8

    ‘Barbie Movie Reverses Mattel’s Toy Sales Slump’, BBC News, 25 October <https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-67223711>.

  • 9

    Each Barbie doll produces approximately 660g of carbon emissions. See further,

    Alan Pears, ‘In a Barbie World … After the Movie Frenzy Fades, How Do We Avoid Tonnes of Barbie Dolls Going to Landfill?’, The Conversation, 17 July 2023 <https://theconversation.com/in-a-barbie-world-after-the-movie-frenzy-fades-how-do-we-avoid-tonnes-of-barbie-dolls-going-to-landfill-209601>.

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  • 10

    Such as the various examples throughout where an inventory of product is introduced and explained by the characters.

  • 11

    For example, The Official Barbie Watchlist, available at Letterboxd <https://letterboxd.com/crew/list/greta-gerwigs-official-barbie-watchlist/>.

  • 12

    For a full list of the ‘records’ broken by Barbie, see

    Malia Mendez, ‘As “Barbie” Hits Streaming, Here’s Every Record it’s Broken So Far’, Los Angeles Times, 12 September 2023 <https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/story/2023-09-12/barbie-streaming-records-broken-box-office>.

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  • 13

    According to production information for LuckyChap Entertainment, provided by IMDbPro.

  • 15

    Chris Murray, ‘A Complete History of the Barbie Movie’, Vanity Fair, 12 April 2023 <https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2023/04/a-complete-history-of-the-barbie-movie>.

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  • 16

    Retails for £45.99 in collaboration with Barbie™ Mattel <https://www.zara.com/uk/en/barbie--mattel-striped-swimsuit-p02761101.html>. It is modelled on the swimsuit Barbie wore on the cover of the 50th anniversary edition of the annual Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue in 2014, for which Mattel released a statement, ‘As a legend herself, and under constant criticism about her body and how she looks’, featuring in Sports Illustrated ‘gives Barbie and her fellow legends an opportunity to own who they are, celebrate what they have done and be #unapologetic’: quoted in

    Stuart Elliott, ‘Barbie’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue Causes a Stir Online’, New York Times, 11 February 2014 <https://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/12/business/media/barbies-sports-illustrated-swimsuit-issue-causes-a-stir-online.html>.

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    Other fast fashion brand collaborations include Gap, Forever 21, and Primark, all with somewhat uncertain credentials as to sustainability. See further Ben Roberts, ‘Barbie Licensing: Brand Collaborations to Celebrate an Icon’, License Global, 19 July 2023 <https://www.licenseglobal.com/movies/mattel-announces-licensing-partnerships-ahead-of-barbie-film->.

  • 17

    Brie Schwartz, ‘Zara’s New Barbie Collection is Selling Out Fast’, Glamour, 17 July 2023 <https://www.glamour.com/story/zara-barbie-collection>.

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  • 18

    See further Roberts (n 16).

  • 19

    CDPA Section 30A.

  • 20

    Barbie was first presented at the American International Toy Fair (New York), 9 March 1959. The first Barbie commercial can be viewed at <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h8-avPUxyno>.

  • 21

    Barbie (2023). Another curious thread throughout the film is the marginalization and ridicule of motherhood; from the opening scenes, to the repeated jokes about Midge (Barbie’s pregnant friend), and the now infamous and somewhat confusing line uttered by Rhea Perlman (in the role of Ruth Handler), ‘We mothers stand still so our daughters can look back and see how far they’ve come.’ As many have asked, why must mothers stand still? Suzanne Garfinkle-Crowell explains the line thus: ‘The Ruth in this movie has little to do but accept and adore Barbie, and Barbie has no reason to search for the hidden judgment in Ruth’s loving eyes – she is more fairy godmother than actual mother. In a sense, Ruth is the Barbie of mothers: equally unreal’:

    Suzanne Garfinkle-Crowell, ‘What Barbie Understands about Mother-Daughter Relationships’, The Atlantic, 5 August 2023 <https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2023/08/barbie-movie-mother-daughter-relationship/674931/>.

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    See further Emily McCombs, ‘People Love This 1 Line from “Barbie.” It Makes Me Absolutely Furious’, HuffPost, 16 August 2023 <https://www.huffpost.com/entry/barbie-quote-mothers-stand-still_n_64db4998e4b08f5062c6a5dd>.

  • 22

    Frever Trinna S , '‘“Oh! You Beautiful Doll!”: Icon, Image, and Culture in Works by Alvarez, Cisneros, and Morrison’ ' (2009 ) 28 (1 ) Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature 121 : 138 -9.

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    . See further Marianne Cooper, ‘Yes, Even Doctor Barbie Sends Girls the Wrong Message’, The Atlantic, 8 November 2015 <https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/11/barbie-girls-careers/414525/>.

  • 23

    Collins Louise et al. , '‘We’re Not Barbie Girls: Tweens Transform a Feminine Icon’ ' (2012 ) 24 (1 ) Feminist Formations 102 : 116.

  • 24

    The parade of merchandise, available on the Mattel site, includes: Celebrate Disco Bell Bottom, Ice Capades Pretty Practice Suit and Dazzling Show Skirt, Pajama Jam in Amsterdam Set, and Pretty Paisley Palazzo Pants.

  • 25

    Clueless (1995) dir Amy Heckerling, producers Robert Lawrence and Scott Rudin.

  • 26

    Margot Robbie speaking to Architectural Digest, in

    ‘Margot Robbie Takes You Inside the Barbie Dreamhouse’, 16 June 2023 <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uKgaVlMN7IY>.

  • 27

    Greta Gerwig speaking to Architectural Digest in ‘Margot Robbie Takes You Inside the Barbie Dreamhouse’, ibid.

  • 28

    Sarah Greenwood speaking to Architectural Digest in ‘Margot Robbie Takes You Inside the Barbie Dreamhouse’, ibid.

  • 29

    The Marshall Plan (also known as the European Recovery Act or Foreign Assistance Act, Pub Law 80-472) was enacted to provide economic assistance to post-war Europe. The Plan led to the establishment of foreign subsidiaries in Europe, and a reliance on films for promoting US consumer products in Europe. See further,

    Swann Paul , '‘The Little State Department: Hollywood and the State Department in the Postwar World’ ' (1991 ) 29 (1 ) American Studies International : 2.

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    ; and Ian Jarvie, ‘The Postwar Economic Foreign Policy of the American Film Industry: Europe 1945–1950’ (1990) 4(4) Film History 277.

  • 30

    ‘Live Like Lucy’ 1953 advertisement for bedroom furniture based on a suite used in the I Love Lucy television series (1951–1960) starring Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. See further the discussion in

    Landay Lori , '‘Millions “Love Lucy”: Commodification and the Lucy Phenomenon’ ' (1999 ) 11 (2 ) NSWA Journal : 25.

    . Landay notes: ‘In January 1953, the first month of selling a line of bedroom suites, $500,000 in sales in two days were reported’ (at 30).

  • 31

    Meaney Gerardine et al. , Reading the Irish Woman: Studies in Cultural Encounters and Exchange, 1714–1960 , (Liverpool University Press , 2013 ) 150.

  • 32

    ibid 168. The authors note the increase of American imports into the Irish market under the post-war Marshall Plan: ‘[b]y 1960, American fashions in clothes, cosmetics, food, health and diet products, domestic furniture and appliances had been added to the list of products available to the Irish public’ (153).

  • 33

    Singin’ in the Rain (1952) dir Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly, producer Arthur Freed.

  • 34

    An American in Paris (1951) dir Vincente Minnelli, producer Arthur Freed.

  • 35

    2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) directed and produced by Stanley Kubrick. Originally a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer production, Warner Bros acquired rights in the late 1990s and re-released the original film for the 50th anniversary in 2018. See further the Warner Bros Press Release,

    ‘Warner Bros Pictures Celebrates 50 Years of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, 28 March 2018 <https://www.warnerbros.com/news/press-releases/warner-bros-pictures-celebrates-50-years-stanley-kubricks-2001-space-odyssey>.

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  • 36

    Later in the film the dialogue explicitly references The Shining (1980), directed and produced by Stanley Kubrick, and an original production of Warner Bros.

  • 37

    Lolita (1962) dir Stanley Kubrick, producer James B Harris.

  • 38

    Warner Bros Entertainment Inc et al. v X One X Productions et al., No 10-1743 (8th Cir 2011). See further the report in

    Eriq Gardner, ‘Warner Bros Wins Key Legal Ruling Impacting All Wizard of Oz Remakes’, The Hollywood Reporter, 6 July 2011 <https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/business/business-news/warner-bros-wins-key-legal-208255/>.

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  • 39

    The Warner Bros Matrix franchise includes The Matrix (1999), The Matrix Reloaded (2003), The Matrix Revolutions (2003), directed and written by Lana and Lilly Wachowski, producer Joel Silver, and The Matrix Resurrections (2021), directed and produced by Lana Wachowski, together with producers Grant Hill and James McTeigue.

  • 40

    Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985) dir Tim Burton, producers Richard Gilbert Abramson and Robert Shapiro.

  • 41

    Rocky (1976), dir John G Avildsen; Rocky II (1979), Rocky III (1982), and Rocky IV (1985) all directed by Sylvester Stallone; Rocky V (1990) dir John G Avildsen; Rocky Balboa (2006), dir Sylvester Stallone.

  • 42

    Creed (2015) dir Ryan Coogler; Creed II (2018) dir Steven Caple Jr; Creed III (2023) dir Michael B Jordan.

  • 43

    Stallone describes his first full-length fur in an interview: ‘“That was my wardrobe. I still have it at home. Yeah! We didn’t have budget for wardrobe. I bought that coat when I was 19 and living in Philadelphia”’, Sylvester Stallone quoted in GQ.com,

    ‘Sylvester Stallone … Style Icon?’ GQ, 12 August 2010 <https://www.gq.com/story/sylvester-stallone-style-michael-hainey-gq-the-expendables-rocky-rambo>.

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  • 44

    Ocean’s 8 (2018) dir Gary Ross, producers Susan Ekins and Steven Soderbergh. In another curious anticipation, in one scene, Anne Hathaway (previously cast in the role of Barbie before Sony’s option expired in 2018) is trying on some lipstick, on which Helena Bonham-Carter comments, ‘Barbie! In a Good Way’. To which Hathaway smiles and replies, ‘Thank you!’. A classic heist sequence, the use of the van in the de-programming of the Barbies recalls the Glorious Food van used in the heist in Ocean’s 8. And the Rosie the Riveter pink jumpsuit worn by all the Barbies is now being marketed as the Pink Power Jumpsuit Barbie for £44.99.

  • 45

    The Warner Bros franchise includes: Ocean’s Eleven (2001), Ocean’s Twelve (2004), Ocean’s Thirteen (2007), all of which were directed by Steven Soderbergh and produced by Jerry Weintraub; Ocean’s 8 (2018) dir Garry Ross, producers Susan Ekins and Steven Soderbergh; and the as yet untitled prequel, starring Margot Robbie (also producing). The franchise is itself built upon a remake of the 1960 Warner Bros production, Ocean’s 11, directed and produced by Lewis Milestone, and starring Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr, Peter Lawford, and Angie Dickinson.

  • 46

    The new production is being directed by Jay Roach and produced by Tom Ackerley, Michelle Graham, Jay Roach, and Margot Robbie.

  • 47

    Details provided via IMDbPro. See further

    Ash Percival, ‘Barbie and Ken Reunited: Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling Are Teaming Up on a Brand New Film’, Huffington Post, 11 October 2023 <https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/margot-robbie-ryan-gosling-reunite-for-oceans-11-prequel-film-barbie_uk_6526c419e4b09f4b8d42ab34>.

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  • 48

    Jeremy Kay, ‘Warner Bros to Handle International Theatrical on MGM Films’, Screen Daily, 15 August 2022 <https://www.screendaily.com/news/warner-bros-to-handle-international-theatrical-on-mgm-films/5173409.article>.

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  • 49

    Top Gun (1986) dir Tony Scott, producers Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson.

  • 50

    Saturday Night Fever (1977) dir John Badham, producer Robert Stigwood.

  • 51

    Wayne’s World (1992) dir Penelope Spheeris, producer Lorne Michaels. The ‘shwing’ appears when Ken describes his experience of respect in the real world, where he was even asked for the time. One Ken exclaims, ‘No way!’ and Gosling’s Ken responds, ‘Way’, before throwing both fists in the air followed by a faint chord ‘shwing’ in the background music in what amounts to an unmistakeable sound thread with Wayne’s World.

  • 52

    Grease (1978) dir Randal Kleiser, producers Allan Carr and Robert Stigwood. The dream ballet sequence and the black costuming in particular are said to be in part inspired by Grease and Danny Zuko’s characterization (John Travolta).

  • 53

    The Godfather (1972) dir Francis Ford Coppola, producer Albert S Ruddy.

  • 54

    Available via Letterboxd <https://letterboxd.com/crew/list/greta-gerwigs-official-barbie-watchlist/>.

    Maxance Vincent, ‘Tom Hanks’ Comedy and The Godfather Are Among the 33 Movies that Inspired Barbie, ScreenRant 15 July 2023 <https://screenrant.com/barbie-movie-inspiration-godfather-greta-gerwig-details/>.

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  • 55

    Mia Lee Vicino, ‘The Official Barbie Watchlist: Greta Gerwig on the Classic Film Influences Behind Her Fantasy-Comedy-Kind-of-Musical’, Letterboxd, 13 July 2023 <https://letterboxd.com/journal/the-official-barbie-watchlist-greta-gerwig/>.

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  • 56

    Wilson Chapman, ‘The 5 Hallmarks of a Greta Gerwig Movie’, IndieWire, 6 August 2023 <https://www.indiewire.com/gallery/greta-gerwig-films-directorial-style-barbie/>.

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  • 57

    Gibson Johanna , '‘The Man behind the Curtain: Developing Film’s Double Exposure of Intellectual Property’ ', in P Sean Morris (ed), Intellectual Property and the Law of Nations, 1860–1920 , (Brill , 2022 ) 207 -41.

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  • 58

    ‘Pocket Calculator’ featured on the album Computer World and was released in 1981.

  • 59

    Released 11 May 1981.

  • 60

    Handheld Museum, Mattel’s Bee Gees Rhythm Machine (1978) <https://www.handheldmuseum.com/Mattel/BeeGees.htm>.

  • 61

    Poppy Burton, ‘How the Bee Gees Inspired a Classic Kraftwerk Hit’, Far Out Magazine, 25 October 2023 <https://faroutmagazine.co.uk/how-the-bee-gees-inspired-a-classic-kraftwerk-hit/>.

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  • 62

    Mattel Synsonics, Electronics & Music Maker, Drum Machine Supplement, February 1983. Available through the Magazine Archive at <https://www.muzines.co.uk/articles/mattel-synsonics/5887>.

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    See also the mention in Tim Oakes, ‘The Great Home Entertainment Spectacular’, Electronics & Music Maker, November 1983. Available through the Magazine Archive at <https://www.muzines.co.uk/articles/the-great-home-entertainment-spectacular/1755>. Evidence of this is somewhat hard to find other than in the fan pages (although that in itself is interesting, emphasizing as it does the legendary nature of the relationship between Kraftwerk, Mattel, and play). For example, see the fandom entry on Synsonics provided in the Electronic Music Wiki for FanCentral, available at <https://electronicmusic.fandom.com/wiki/Synsonics>.

  • 63

    Ben Rogerson, ‘Kraftwerk Action Figures Unveiled’, MusicRadar, 15 February 2010 <https://www.musicradar.com/news/tech/kraftwerk-action-figures-unveiled-236862>.

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  • 64

    ‘Metall auf Metall’ (‘Metal on Metal’), instrumental from Trans-Europe Express (1977).

  • 65

    ‘Nur mir’, single from Die neue S-Klasse (1977).

  • 66

    Metall auf Metall IV (I ZR 115/16), 30 April 2020.

  • 67

    C-476/17 Pelham, EU:C:2018:1002 at [65].

  • 68

    Dyer Richard , Pastiche , (Routledge , 2007 ) 1.

  • 69

    Emily Hudson notes this distinction between parody and pastiche, contrasting the combinations characteristic of pastiche with the kind of ridicule usually associated with parody:

    Hudson Emily , '‘The Pastiche Exception in Copyright Law: A Case of Mashed-up Drafting?’ ' (2017 ) 346 IPQ : 351.

  • 70

    Shazam Productions Ltd v Only Fools the Dining Experience Ltd and others [2022] EWHC 1379 (IPEC)

  • 71

    Shazam Productions [2022] EWHC 1379 (IPEC), [190].

  • 72

    Indeed, arguably this underpins John Kimbell KC’s ruling against pastiche on the basis of the lack of intention as pastiche (ie for the purpose of pastiche): Shazam Productions [2022] EWHC 1379 (IPEC), [195(c)].

  • 73

    A resonance with one of the recurring musical refrains in Barbie, Billie Eilish, ‘What Was I Made For?’ (13 July 2023), Barbie: The Album (21 July 2023).