Barbie is an icon known throughout the world and has certainly made her mark in the world of pop culture. She’s been the subject of parody, with many long-running series having their own versions of the famous doll. Some comedy shows, especially sketch comedies, prefer to go for the direct approach. There have also been times when Barbie dolls have been used as puppets and in stop-motion.
Some of these parodies and homages have had lives of their own, appearing in other works and media or having their own mythologies. Of course, Barbie has also had official media that has left an impression on fans.
The Simpsons: Malibu Stacy
Malibu Stacy is The Simpsons‘ version of the Barbie doll. Waylon Smithers is shown as Malibu Stacy’s biggest fan, even starring in a musical based on the doll. Normally, it’s also portrayed as Lisa’s favorite doll, though she famously fights America’s favorite eight-and-a-half “incher.” In “Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy,” Lisa gets offended when her new talking Malibu Stacy says things she feels are outdated, notably, “Don’t ask me, I’m just a girl.” This was a reference to the real-life controversy over Teen Talk Barbie’s infamous quote, “Math class is tough.” Lisa joins forces with the doll’s creator to make a new doll, Lisa Lionheart. However, she is ultimately overshadowed by Malibu Stacy with a new hat.
Bongo Comics gave readers a look into Stacy’s world in “Stacy’s Busy Day.” The Barbie parallels are really played up, with Stacy having a younger sister Muffy, a generic boyfriend named Tad, and a variety of careers. She even came complete with a paper doll, appearing as lawyer-friendly versions of Dr. Frank-N-Furter, Princess Leia, and Xena the Warrior Princess, complete with a severed head.
On the Rugrats series, Angelica’s favorite doll, Cynthia, is a parody of the Barbie doll. Bringing to mind Kate McKinnon’s “Weird Barbie” character from 2023’s Barbie, Angelica’s Cynthia is well-loved to the point of misshapen hair. Angelica talks to her as if she was alive, suggesting she’s the girl’s best friend. Angelica is constantly trying to get her parents to buy her multiple Cynthia merchandise, and even a few more dolls, though she always wants to keep her original doll.
Cynthia is implied to be a media darling in the series’ universe. Angelica spends most of the show’s Chanukah special trying to watch “A Very Cynthia Christmas.” In “Angelica’s Lake,” Angelica develops a ballet with the babies using Cynthia’s workout song. Another episode reveals she has her own series, “Cynthia P.I.,” where she is voiced by actress Alyson Hannigan. “Rescuing Cynthia,” an episode of the reboot, reveals Cynthia has been overshadowed by a popstar doll known as Tabitha. After going on a fantastic journey, Angelica meets Cynthia in human form. In the end, Cynthia and Tabitha join forces.
Addams Family Values: Debbie’s Ballerina Barbie Speech
Addams Family Values, a sequel to 1991’s The Addams Family, features the titular family hiring a nanny, Debbie, who is secretly a murderous black widow who has set her sights on Uncle Fester. Fortunately, killing Fester is easier said than done. Towards the end of the film, while holding the family hostage in a set of electric chairs, Debbie reveals a certain doll had a role in her start of darkness.
As she claims, all she ever wanted in life was a Ballerina Barbie. When her parents got her a Malibu Barbie instead, her only recourse was to murder them by burning the house down. Naturally, the family has nothing but sympathy for the story, suggesting if Debbie had only showed her true colors from the start, they would’ve welcomed her with open arms, pastels and all.
Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt: Queen Barby
Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt is an anime series that pays tribute to various Western cartoons and media, including a shout-out to Barbie. The series revolves around the Anarchy sisters, a pair of less-than-angelic angels sent to Earth to fight evil ghosts.
In “The Turmoil of the Beehive,” the two investigate mysterious disappearances taking place at the local high school. While there, they incur the wrath of head cheerleader and popular girl, Queen Barby. Before viewers assume the name could be a coincidence, Panty immediately points out that their new rival has a doll’s name. As the story goes on, it’s revealed Barby is a ghost, resembling a queen bee in her true form. The English dub has a field day with the Barbie jokes, with Panty boasting, “We girls can do anything” and that Barby’s “dream cometary” is sold separately when she delivers her finishing blow.
Saturday Night Live: Various Barbie Parodies
Barbie, among other rival dolls, has often been the subject of parody on Saturday Night Live. In one famous sketch, in which viewers are given a look inside Barbie’s dreamhouse, Britney Spears plays Barbie’s sister Skipper. However, in a soap opera-like twist, the sketch reveals that Skipper is really Barbie’s daughter, as are Kelly and Baby Krissy. Even Barbie’s long list of careers came about from having to raise her children on her own. Another sketch features Paris Hilton as a Barbie doll caught in a love triangle with Ken and another Barbie. In the end, it turns out Ken was cheating on both with a Bratz doll.
Even Barbie’s social media accounts weren’t above parody. One sketch features interns tasked with managing her Instagram account. None are exactly up for the job, with one pitching stories where Barbie is haunted by a murder and later learns she is a doll.
Robot Chicken: Various Barbie Parodies
The stop-motion world of Robot Chicken seems filled with action figures and fashion dolls, so it makes sense that Barbie would be featured a few times. In one sketch poking fun at Gone Girl, Barbie fakes her death and pins Ken for the murder. This proves more confusing than anything for Ken, who keeps confusing every other Barbie doll for his wife. In the end, by the time the original Barbie has returned, Ken has started a relationship with the others. Some skits portray Barbie as a literal doll in-universe, such as one where she inspires a little girl to become a race car driver, with lethal consequences.
Barbie’s rivalry with Bratz has been poked fun at more than once. In one horror parody, the Bratz accidentally run over Barbie, with her ultimately being avenged by Monster High‘s Draculaura. Another skit had Barbie compete with Bratz‘s Yasmin on MTV’s Exposed.
The Most Popular Girls in School
The Most Popular Girls in School is a stop-motion web-series on YouTube made with fashion dolls. Sort of a cross between Mean Girls and South Park, the series revolves around three cheerleaders, and their friends, rivals, and enemies, in Overland Park, Kansas, as various cliques fight for dominance. Many scenes of the series became popular internet memes, particularly concerning what happens when no one is watching the door.
Many dolls, including ones from Barbie’s own line, are used for the series. Mackenzie Zales and Trisha Cappelletti are apparently made from generic fashion dolls, while Brittany Matthews and Cameron Van Buren, among other characters, use actual Barbie dolls. Some of Barbie’s friends are used, too, with Shay Van Buren and Trisha 2 being a Summer and Teresa doll, respectively. Ashley Katchadorian is a Skipper doll, with many male characters played by Ken dolls. Even Disney dolls get in the act, with characters like Ariel and Belle appearing as classmates Rachel Tice and Saison Marguerite, respectively.
Toy Story: Barbie’s Appearances
Toy Story is a series revolving around toys, so it makes sense that Barbie would eventually appear. Allegedly, Barbie was intended to appear as early as the first film, where she would have saved Woody in a Sarah Connor-inspired fashion. However, Mattel only allowed Pixar to use their famous dolls by the second film.
Multiple Barbies appear in Toy Story 2, where one, voiced by Jodi Benson, functions as a helpful tour guide when the toys visit a toy store. In a famous credits gag, it’s shown Barbie doesn’t like smiling as much as her job requires. By the third film, Barbie finally meets her Ken, though he initially works for the film’s villains until his love for Barbie wins out. The famous couple would later appear in the short “Hawaiian Vacation” together. In this story, the other toys stage a trip to Hawaii for the pair when their plan to stowaway on Bonnie’s Hawaiian trip falls through.
Aqua: “Barbie Girl”
One of Barbie’s most famous parodies came from the music industry: the song “Barbie Girl” from Danish pop group Aqua. The song, which focuses on a “Barbie girl” living in a “Barbie world,” isn’t too flattering of its namesake character. outright referring to her as a “bimbo.” In the accompanying music video, singers Lene Nystrøm and René Dif act out Barbie and Ken, playing in a giant toy set. All throughout, though, Barbie is too busy having fun or getting ready to “go party” with Ken.
Over the years, the song has been subject to parodies and featured in film, television shows, and internet memes. Mattel initially sued over the song, feeling it insulted the character, though family-friendly remixes of the song would later appear in Barbie promotions, most notably in the Fashionistas doll lines. Greta Gerwig’s Barbie film featured a remix of the song, “Barbie World,” featuring Nicki Minaj, Ice Spice, and Aqua.
The Barbie Movies
Barbie is no stranger to pop culture herself. In the 1980s, Barbie appeared in two television specials, Barbie and the Rockers: Out of This World and Barbie and the Sensations: Rockin’ Back to Earth, to promote a new rockstar toy line. In 2001, Barbie appeared in the computer-animated film, Barbie in the Nutcracker, retelling the popular ballet and the E. T. A. Hoffmann story.
This would prove to be the start of a long-running series of computer-animated films starring Barbie. Early on, these were usually adaptations of fairy tales, ballet stories, and classic works of literature. By the 2010s, however, these films usually branched out into more original stories. Barbie would soon branch out into series, like the Life in the Dreamhouse web-series and the Barbie Dreamhouse Adventures streaming series. Barbie would finally break out into live-action cinema with 2023’s Barbie, with actress Margot Robbie playing the title heroine.