Barbie Film Sparks Worry Among Cosmetic Doctors About Extreme Requests – The Hollywood Reporter

Barbie Doll Beauty Standards GettyImages 1570330464 H 2023

Greta Gerwig’s candy-colored, live-action depiction of the impossibly-curved, slope-nosed, pearly-white chopper-ed icon is the movie of the summer. With a whopping 89 percent critics’ score on Rotten Tomatoes, the film is being celebrated and praised for its themes of female empowerment, inclusivity, and feminism. But as Barbie continues to tear up the box office, quickly soaring to nearly $775 million globally and counting, leading doctors are raising concerns.

“After the first week of the film’s opening, I’ve had patients asking for Barbie’s waist and breasts,” says plastic surgeon Dr. Payman Danielpour of Beverly Hills Plastic Surgery Group. “One patient asked about a rib removal to cinch her waist like Barbie. Ribs are there to protect vital organs and people need to understand this should not be done.” Danielpour adds that many patients bring pictures asking to look like a particular person or figure, and that can be a way to start the discussion. “But we are not here to make a patient look like someone else,” he adds.

Ever since her debut in the 1950’s, Barbie has been blamed for promoting an unrealistic view of the female body — from her sky-high breasts and block teeth to her tiny waist and exceptionally high arches. Over the years, a number of Barbiecore devotees have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on plastic surgery to emulate the doll, so the desire to become Barbie-ized isn’t new, but the film is now speaking to a massive new audience of young, impressionable viewers.

“Even with the positive messaging, the Barbie movie romanticizes anatomically unrealistic beauty ideals,” says facial plastic surgeon Dara Liotta. “We now know that with her anatomy, Barbie wouldn’t even be able to stand up. And unfortunately, the strong feminist themes in the film could be easily lost on young girls.”

Both the Barbie doll and the enchanting portrayal of her by Margot Robbie can be seductive, regardless of age. “Adolescents are particularly vulnerable to comparing themselves to Barbie,” says licensed psychologist Stephanie Wright, PsyD. “Watching the film or playing with Barbie is likely not harmful in itself, but using the images of Barbie to support the belief that people should look a certain way can be problematic.”

Dr. Liotta had concerns even before the film debuted. “There has been so much hoopla around the film and being visually bombarded with that perfection can eat a hole somewhere in your mind, especially for young girls,” she says. “The film brings Barbie into new relevance, and I worry about those who are influenced by all the glamorizing and fanfare of her.”

PhD and psychologist Fay Van Der Kar-Levinson suggests looking at Barbie as an opportunity for conversation. “Images are powerful and override words anytime,” she says. “Many kids can internalize the ideal of looking like Barbie, so talk with them and ask what they think the movie is trying to sell us as this helps create critical thinking.” If your teenager is specifically asking for Barbie’s features, Van Der Kar-Levinson advises to listen attentively while acknowledging their feelings without putting your teen or Barbie down. “Avoid responding with, ‘You want to look like a plastic doll?’ she adds. Instead, let your kids know you get it and understand. “Channel the conversation to what’s attractive in real life, which is confidence and kindness. I realize it sounds hokey, but ask people what they want in a life partner, and this is proven, the number one answer is someone who is kind.”

Barbie has other features that are worthy of emulating without the need for surgery. “She has great skin, so think about talking to your kids about creating a healthy skincare regimen along with avoiding too much sun exposure — this is a more sensible way to aspire to look like Barbie without the need to drastically change your appearance,” says Danielpour.

Anyone who decides to explore cosmetic work should always practice due diligence. “Speak with several board-certified doctors, look at before and after photos, understand the healing process, the emotional undertaking and the costs along with the risks and benefits,” adds Danielpour. “The goal is to look natural and avoid looking done or fake.”

Barbie’s teeth, for example, are famously white, opaque, square shaped, and straight — in other words, exceptionally artificial. “This is also referred to as a Hollywood Smile, which you often see due to bad veneers, but it isn’t natural,” says Dr. Matt Nejad, a cosmetic and biomimetic dentist whose clients include Beyoncé and Jay Z. “Nature is hard to emulate, and a tooth is never one solid color — there are changes in color and translucency from the edge of the tooth to the gum, along with varying sizes and proportions,” he adds, noting that when every tooth is the same size and shape, that is not what youthful, natural teeth look like. “The push had been to create white Chiclet teeth because there wasn’t a good understanding of a real smile. Fortunately, we have been slowly shifting from this altered reality. I fear the Barbie movie will drive interest in the Hollywood Smile again.”

If you’re considering veneers, Nejad recommends making sure you evaluate the design of your teeth at the end of the treatment process so there aren’t any surprises. “Patients must have the ability to sign off on proportions and sizes before the work begins.” For his patients, he also creates a mockup which is a 3D design blueprint that is placed right over the teeth so patients can see what the veneers will look like, even prior to placing the temporaries. The price tag is hefty — upwards of $4,000 per tooth — but Nejad says more affordable options are coming, including 3D ceramic printing. “It’s made from a composite material similar to bonding, but more durable and will be around 30 to 50 percent less than veneers,” he adds.

Liotta, who specializes in rhinoplasty (a.k.a., nose jobs), worries about a surge in desire for the extreme Barbie nose trend. “Her bridge is too concave with a tip that is overly pointed and turned up which can contribute to dry nose, nose bleeds and sinus issues,” she says. “This nose won’t hold up over time, takes away from the natural anatomy, and can lead to more serious problems such as breathing issues and even collapse.”

Patients need to also consider that rhinoplasty involves a year-long healing process. “I’m seeing more and more people who think it’s not a big deal to get a nose job because it’s often made to look so quick and easy on social media and the before and after images don’t relay what goes into it,” she adds. “An emotional understanding of what the patient is undertaking is essential.” And prior to moving forward with surgery, she weighs both hard medical criteria with what she refers to as a soft call. “With teenagers especially, I want to know if they are done growing as you can’t put a nose on a platform that’s not stable. And I make sure the patient is motivated, knows that they want and why they want it. Someone who is repeatedly looking to a parent for answers or unsure isn’t ready.”

Danielpour cautions those who are constantly trying to obtain perfection. “I’m not in the business of taking the average person and making them look perfect,” he says. “It doesn’t look natural and aspiring to it can lead to psychological demise.” He urges patients to gain a solid understanding of the ramifications of any surgery. “It’s harder to fix something later that a patient ends up regretting,” he says.

Danielpour also notes, “You have a lifetime of aging. It’s best to take healthy, subtle baby steps over time to look like the best version of yourself, and in a way that complements your natural anatomy and features.”

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