On August 6, “Barbie” made a billion. The film, directed by Greta Gerwig, is the second highest grossing release in the history of Warner Bros. So far, it has outpaced Harry Potter (Deathly Hallows – Part 2) and grossed more than “Oppenheimer” and “Spider Man.” It made Gerwig the first female solo director to make a billion dollar movie. Only 28 other people have directed billion dollar movies in Hollywood’s history. All of them are men.
Meanwhile, Taylor Swift, who has more number one albums than any woman in history, has been bopping around North America on her “Eras” tour. The tour is poised to top $1 billion in sales, which would make it the first concert in history to gross that much money. A survey estimated that Swift’s concerts could generate about $4.6 billion in economic activity in North America alone. For scale, this is commensurate with the amount of revenue the Beijing Olympics generated in 2008 (adjusted for inflation). It’s called Taylornomics, people. And Beyonce. Have you heard of her? Her shows are expected to stimulate about $4.5 billion in spending.
These women (and dolls?) are tearing through cities in tornados of bejeweled hats, glitter tears and friendship bracelets leaving economic booms in their wake. But do not let the pink confetti fool you. This is serious math.
I hope this information is not new to most of you. I hope you’ve heard of the outsized economic influence these women have had. The key point to understand is that they’re doing it while wearing bejeweled hats, glitter tears and singing about (or in Barbie’s case, hyper-realizing) the “female” experience.
There’s a speech in the final quarter of the Barbie movie, when America Ferrera laments the contradictions of womanhood. “You have to be a boss,” she says, “but you can’t be mean… You have to be a career woman, but also always be looking out for other people…You have to never get old, never be rude, never show off, never be selfish, never fall down, never fail, never show fear, never get out of line.”
For a long time, it felt like you had to be successful, but you could not also be a woman. Because success, a field historically dominated by men, did not take bejeweled hats, glitter tears, friendship bracelets, or the female experience seriously. Nor have we taken women seriously. You know what we’ve always taken seriously? Money.
It should not take a billion bucks to comprehend the legitimacy of Barbie, Taylor Swift, or Beyonce, but this is Ken’s world, and we’re still living in it. Things are changing, however. The people in the bejeweled hats, glitter tears and friendship bracelets are the ones buying, and their buying power is redefining success.