Venus figurines are among the oldest pieces of art humans have created. Through them we can see that there is an ancient relationship between figurines and the elevation of some kind of ideal on behalf of a community or culture. Venuses in their many forms have represented the ideal feminine or feminine power throughout the ages. Mattel’s Barbie doll is a very recent addition to the Venus lineage. Prehistoric Venuses are voluptuous and plump – a visual representation of a voracious fecundity. The Barbie that most of us grew up with appears to be missing a couple of ribs in order to be both curvy and slim. She represents the industrial West’s hope for freedom from the demands of the fleshiness of life. She insists that one might be able to both give birth and keep their figure.

In Greta Gerwig’s recent fantasy comedy Barbie, early on the audience is introduced to Stereotypical Barbie as she wakes up in her giant seashell bed, a reference to “The Birth of Venus” by Sandro Botticelli. Soon Barbie’s world is turned upside down because she is unable to suppress her persistent thoughts of death. As I watched her dilemma unfold, I realized that viewers would be embarking on a journey of an epic scale. It is a primal journey that has echoed throughout human history and storytelling.

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