At first blush, it would seem that the right wing would be just as excited as everyone else for the Barbie movie, which opens in wide release this Friday. There is, to be sure, much for conservatives to love: the doll Margot Robbie’s character is based on is a white woman who hews to conventional feminine beauty standards. She has no reproductive organs, so she can’t have sex out of wedlock or get pregnant; nor does she have any orifices, so both speech and sodomy are out of the question. And she’s married to a blandly handsome former prom king type who might secretly dream of tipping back vodka sodas at Bear Night at Flaming Saddles, so there’s plenty for conservative ladies in particular to relate to.

Yet for whatever reason — attention? clout? A preternatural aversion to enjoying things? — the right has come out guns blazing in opposition to the Barbie movie, even though it hasn’t even been released yet.

Unlike many other right-wing hate trains against so-called “woke” propaganda, which seem far more well-organized, no one can quite get their shit together enough to agree on precisely why they’re mad at the Barbie movie. Earlier on in the press cycle, some pundits objected to the casting of transgender actor Hari Nef as “Doctor Barbie,” with Charlie Kirk calling the trailer “the most disgusting thing I’ve ever seen” and Ben Shapiro referring to the film as a “woke bleep show” due to Nef writing a letter to director Greta Gerwig advocating for her casting. (For the record: there are more than a dozen Barbie characters in the film, and Nef is the only trans or gender non-conforming actor playing any of them, according to IMDB.)

Others took offense to Barbie actor Simu Liu giving a quote to Screen Rant praising the film for putting “the final nail in the coffin of that very heteronormative idea of what gender is.” “If this isn’t a warning to stay far away from this woke garbage, then I don’t know what is,” one person wrote in response to Liu’s quote. This sentiment is not only dumb, but also fails to note what is, in my view, a key point in Simu Liu’s defense: he is very, very hot. In fact, hotness blindness seems to be characterizing a lot of the backlash against Barbie, with one Twitter user’s mind-boggling contention that Margot Robbie without makeup is “mid” — i.e., only average-looking — going massively viral. While the intention behind the original tweet seemed to be a fairly classic internet clout-building strategy — saying something absolutely insane for the sole purpose of getting clicks — it ended up prompting a discourse dominated by misogynists shouting into the ether that they wouldn’t fuck Margot Robbie, which is sort of like being locked up in solitary confinement and screaming that you don’t want to see the sun.

While Nef’s casting and Liu’s quote being reframed as cultural lightning rods isn’t all that surprising, some of the other criticisms coming from conservatives have been a bit more left-field. Rep. Ted Cruz, for instance, briefly went after the film on Twitter due to a conspiracy theory that Barbie was “pushing Chinese propaganda” in a shot of a map showing disputed territory in the South China Sea. Mattel has denied this, and an international politics expert from Tufts University said the shot featured “a nonsense map,” with “squiggles and arrows and hashtags and dotted lines all over the damn place,” though that hasn’t stopped Cruz from repeating the (objectively incredibly stupid) theory over and over again on platforms like the Daily Signal.

And on Tuesday, after a photo of Rep. Matt Gaetz and his wife Ginger walking the red carpet of the film’s premiere went viral, Ginger posted a point-by-point critique of the film, including that Barbie “neglects to address any notion of faith or family, and tries to normalize the idea that men and women can’t collaborate positively (yuck),” and that Ken, as played by Ryan Gosling, displayed “disappointingly low T” (a baffling claim, given that Ken canonically has no testes of which to speak, and thereby presumably has no Leydig cells in the seminiferous tubules to produce testosterone.)

To be fair, there has been some semblance of an organized effort to torch the film on behalf of the far right. After the Christian website MovieGuide posted a July 10 pre-review review accusing the film of ignoring “pro-family and biblical values” and “pushing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender character stories,” it was reposted by Fox News, leading to a half-hearted #BoycottBarbie campaign on Twitter. Fox News also ran a segment on Wednesday morning with a chyron quoting a Daily Mail film critic, saying the movie had an “anti-man message.”

Unlike past attempts to boycott brands like Bud Light and Disney, however, #BoycottBarbie seems to be flopping. According to data from Darren Linvill, a professor at Clemson University’s Media Forensics Hub who specializes in disinformation, the hashtag #boycottbarbie has only received about 407 mentions in the past 30 days, compared to 9,000 mentions of the #boycottbudlight hashtag in the same time period (and that’s well after the campaign against Bud Light reached its peak). Although Cruz appears to be teeing up more anti-Barbie discourse in a much-hyped Fox News segment airing Wednesday evening, it seems unlikely that enough momentum will build before the movie is officially released on Friday to impede its estimated $95-$105 million opening weekend gross.


Ultimately, the Barbie backlash appears to stem from the same place most right-wing-driven backlashes to mainstream popular culture does: a rabid desire for attention at all costs, combined with a sense of righteous indignation over anything that bears even a whiff of empathy and inclusivity. The fact that Barbie is a beloved and traditionally heteronormative product, and the film helmed by a feminist director intent on updating the brand for the twenty-first century, makes it a fairly predictable target. But unfortunately for folks like Ginger Gaetz and Ted Cruz, this time around, it seems the number of people who are willing to shell out $20 to see Ryan Gosling in a studded leather cowboy vest is significantly larger than the number of people irate at a bunch of squiggles on a fake map.