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The 'Barbie' and 'Star Wars' universes are entertaining, but they also unexpectedly can help people understand why revolutions happen

Michael A. Allen, Professor of Political Science, Boise State University and Julie VanDusky-Allen, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Boise State University, The Conversation on

Published in Political News

Barbie dolls and “Star Wars” movies and toys have entertained generations of American children – in many cases, well into adulthood. But these brands’ influence stretches beyond a penchant for hot pink and lightsaber battles.

In particular, both the “Barbie” movie, released in July 2023, and a “Star Wars” franchise television series called “Andor” offer important lessons about revolutions.

Hollywood has long been obsessed with revolutions. There are uprisings in other popular movie franchises like “The Hunger Games,” “Harry Potter” and “Avatar.”

In each fictional universe, an oppressed group stages a revolution that fights for political and economic freedom.

As experts in violence and democratization, we have written about how popular culture allows people to better understand real-life political movements and crises.

We also use films and shows in our classes to help students learn about why revolutions happen.

 

Both “Barbie” and “Andor” are useful for those who want to understand why revolutions happen and what it takes for them to happen.

Their fundamental point: Before the start of any revolution, the oppressed have to first recognize their oppression.

“Barbie” begins in the fictional, very pink and California-perfect Barbieland. Almost everyone is either a version of a Barbie doll or a Ken doll. And the women – all called Barbie – are in charge of Barbieland. Yet the men – all collectively called Ken – are blissfully unaware that they experience political, economic and social repression.

These men are not part of the Barbieland government. They do not work. The primary Ken, played by actor Ryan Gosling, describes his job as “beach.” It was unclear where the Kens even live, since only the women live in the plastic, perfect homes.

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