Barbie and the Naked Minotaur

To love Barbie, or hate her? To cherish her, or destroy her? Silvi Vann-Wall asks the important questions about the beloved doll.

The trailer for Greta Gerwig’s Barbie makes a bold claim: whether you love Barbie, or hate Barbie, ‘this film is for you‘.

When I first saw this tagline, it made me ponder. Do I love Barbie, or do I hate Barbie? Is indifference an option?

In fact, I think my relationship with the blonde, impossibly skinny-yet-buxom doll, has progressed in that exact order: I loved Barbie. Then I hated her with a passion. Then I just didn’t care. But maybe, just maybe, I could love her again.

That is, if the new Barbie film tapped into the same kind of unhinged imagination I had when I was around the ages of 6-10, then there was definitely a strong chance I’d fall in love again. But successfuly capturing the freedom of doll-based storytelling that I experienced at that age would require a one very specific thing.

The Naked Minotaur

Now, I know what you’re thinking. ‘Silvi, what in the ever loving fuck is the Naked Minotaur?’ Well, I’d be delighted to explain.

When my sister and I paused our verbal (and skin-gougingly physical) sparring for long enough to play Barbies together, we quickly got tired of the same old routine of ‘Barbie and Ken are happily in love and like to visit their friends for picnics and inane suburban chatter’. It was done, it was old hat, it was simply too gauche, darling. But perhaps if Barbie was placed in imminent peril, the threat of dismemberment only a scissor snip away, then we’d be entertained for hours.

Thus we launched ourselves and our dolls headfirst into the nastiest, goriest, raunchiest (as far as little kids can conjure) game of Barbies ever. And a brief reminder: this was the age when I loved Barbie.

If ‘flat feet’ is the worst peril Barbie can face in the new movie, she has NO idea what the Naked Minotaur can do. Image: Warner Bros Pictures.

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Ok, ok, so first of all: the Naked Minotaur was just a regular degular Barbie, but messed up and couture-less. I can’t remember what flavour of Barbie it was – Mermaid, Totally Hair, Super Gymnast?? – because all that mattered was she was Naked, and she was Powerful.

Her role as a minotaur came straight from the annals of Greek mythology, a favourite topic of ours thanks to Xena: Warrior Princess, Horrible Histories, and those giant ‘-ology‘ books every nerdy naughts kid like us devoured.

At the beginning of our immersive Barbie RPG sessions, the Naked Minotaur was placed atop our beloved portable puppet theatre to choose her next victim. After ensnaring a helpless doll in her trap, a team of Barbies, Kens, and an errant Bratz doll would thus be tasked with an epic rescue mission.

The Naked Minotaur had no politics, and no agenda beyond ‘kidnap Barbie and maybe eat her’. Sometimes the rescue team would succeed in their mission, dangling down into the minotaur’s lair with twine hung from the ceiling fan, or simply using superpowers to whisk Barbie away to safety. Sometimes they would not, and poor innocent Barbara would get gobbled up and have her lifeless corpse thrown into the pit (pile of unfolded bedclothes).

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So, Greta, think you can match that?

I highly doubt 2023’s Barbie movie, opening next week in Australian cinemas, can bring me the same visceral joy that games of the Naked Minotaur did. There was something so feral, so suburban-kid-unhinged about it that I don’t think mumblecore darling Gerwig and former soapstar Margot Robbie could ever really understand.

On the other hand, Naked Minotaur wasn’t just a way to channel misunderstood rage, it was a ritual that brought me and my sister together in a way little else could. In that vein, going off the trailer and vibes of early reviews so far, I think Barbie has the potential to capture that mischievous sibling energy.

On the other-other hand, perhaps this should be my wake-up call. Hollywood, if you find yourself in need of a gritty and insane sequel to Barbie, I’ll be waiting by the phone. Well, I will be once the strike is over. Until then, I might catch up with my sister. We’ve got some minotauring to do.

Barbie opens in Australian cinemas on 20 July. Stay tuned for our imminent review.

Silvi Vann-Wall is a journalist, podcaster, and filmmaker. They joined ScreenHub as Film Content Lead in 2022. Twitter: @SilviReports