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Why Is Aqua’s ‘Barbie Girl’ Not in The ‘Barbie’ Movie? The Answer Involves a Lawsuit and Cheese

Margot Robbie as Barbie in a pink car

The teaser trailer for Greta Gerwig’s Barbie has dropped, giving us our first look at Margo Robbie as the eponymous fashion doll come to life. The movie will reportedly find Barbie and Ken find stuck in the grim real world, and if the vibes in the trailer are accurate, we’re in for a wild ride.

Speaking of rides … isn’t Aqua’s “Barbie Girl” song going to be in the movie? You know, the song in which Barbie invites Ken to get in her car and then things get super risqué? It sure seems like a natural soundtrack to the new movie—especially since Gerwig’s take on Barbie will be just as pink and candy-coated as Aqua’s.

Apparently, though, this classic song won’t be included in the film.

What is “Barbie Girl?”

For those who aren’t in the know, “Barbie Girl” is a 1997 song by Danish/Norwegian pop group Aqua, consisting of members René Dif, Lene Nystrøm, and Søren Rasted. Riffing on the Barbie line of dolls by toymaker Mattel, the group wrote and performed a song in which Barbie tells Ken he can touch her, undress her, and control her like a doll.

The song was an instant hit, garnering critical acclaim and reaching #1 in the UK Singles Chart. It was a bit of bubble gum pop that you couldn’t get out of your head, but it was also a subversive take on what Barbie stood for: a supposedly wholesome brand aimed at children, which also presented a sexualized and unrealistic depiction of the female body.

Mattel was not a fan of “Barbie Girl”

As much as critics and listeners loved the song, though, Mattel wasn’t impressed. Six months after the song’s release, Mattel sued MCA Records, claiming that the song violated copyright and threatened the Barbie brand by portraying her as a sex object. Mattel took their case all the way to the United States Supreme Court, but it was ultimately dismissed, with courts ruling that as a work of parody, the song was protected by the First Amendment and the doctrine of fair use.

But is that why the song won’t appear in the movie?

Aqua’s manager confirms that “Barbie Girl” won’t appear in Barbie

In April 2022, Ulrich Møller-Jørgensen, who manages Nystrøm, confirmed to Variety that the song won’t appear in the movie. Although he declined to say why, Mattel’s film division is co-producing Barbie, and Variety noted that the feud between Aqua and Mattel may play a part in Mattel’s decision not to use the song.

More recently, though, Nystrøm told Variety that using the song in the film would be like “cheese on cheese”—that is, too obvious a choice. Nystrøm went on to say that “I totally understand why they didn’t use it, but it’s going to bring us a lot of attention, no matter what.” Case in point: I haven’t listened to “Barbie Girl” in twenty years, but it’s now in my exercise playlist.

Even if we’re not getting both the song and the movie on one hot-pink platter, we can still enjoy them both separately. “Barbie Girl” is widely available on CD and streaming services, and Barbie comes out on July 21, 2023.

(featured image: Mattel/Heyday)

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Julia Glassman (she/her) holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and she consumes massive amounts of Marvel media, folk horror, science fiction, fantasy, and nature writing. She lives in Los Angeles, where she reads tarot and makes yarn on her spinning wheel. You can check out more of her writing at https://juliaglassman.carrd.co/, or find her on Twitter at @juliaglassman.