The best Easter eggs and references in 'Barbie' you might have missed

Find out all the in-jokes in Greta Gerwig's movie and the story behind all those discontinued Barbie and Ken dolls

Margot Robbie in "Barbie"
Greta Gerwig packs the film with Mattel in-jokes and movie references.
(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures )

Leave it to Greta Gerwig to craft a Barbie movie that references everything from the history of Mattel to Stanley Kubrick films, Disney Channel originals and Michelangelo. From the in-jokes to the story behind those discontinued Barbies and Kens, let's break down all the best references stuffed into Gerwig's life in plastic.

Stanley Kubrick nods

As teased in the trailer, the opening sequence spoofs the scene in Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey," in which apes discover the monolith, and the "2001" music returns when Ken learns about the patriarchy. The table where Mattel executives sit also makes their headquarters reminiscent of the war room in Kubrick's "Dr. Strangelove," and Sasha asks her mom if she's "shining" with Barbie, referring to the psychic ability from Kubrick's "The Shining."


Michael Cera's character, Allan, is based on a real doll Mattel introduced as Ken's friend in 1964 and was named after Barbie inventor Ruth Handler's son-in-law. Allan's box declared "all of Ken's clothes fit him," a line Allan gets in the film. The doll was discontinued by 1966, so there aren't multiple versions of him, though he returned in the 1990s.

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Midge was also a real doll introduced in 1963 as Barbie's best friend. In 1991, Mattel had Midge marry her boyfriend Allan and sold her as Wedding Day Midge. But as referenced in the film, in 2002, a pregnant version of Midge, sold as part of a "Happy Family" set with Allan and their son, caused so much controversy that the doll was pulled from Walmart's shelves. "Customers had a concern about having a pregnant doll," Walmart said at the time.

"The Matrix"

Weird Barbie giving Barbie the choice of high heels or Birkenstocks, the latter of which reveals the truth about the universe, is a parody of taking the red or blue pill in "The Matrix."

"The Umbrellas of Cherbourg"

Gerwig told Letterboxd that one of Barbie's hairstyles, which she's wearing when first visiting Weird Barbie, is a nod to Catherine Deneuve's in the 1964 musical "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg."


Weird Barbie's dog is a reference to Tanner, who was introduced as Barbie's pet in 2006. Weird Barbie also apologizes for poop on the floor, a nod to the fact that the Tanner dog toy could poop plastic. In 2007, Mattel recalled Barbie and Tanner sets "containing a small powerful magnet in the blue pooper scooper" that could fall out and be swallowed by children.

Lots of real Barbie outfits

The film features too many outfits from real Barbies to count, but one of the most notable is that in the opening scene, Barbie is wearing the black-and-white swimsuit from her very first doll in 1959.

The woman on the bench

The old woman Barbie encounters at a bus stop is played by costume designer Ann Roth, who has won two Oscars, most recently for "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom."


The Mattel office's design is heavily reminiscent of the 1967 French film "Playtime," which Gerwig cited as an influence.

Proust Barbie

One of the only Barbies referenced that doesn't exist is Proust Barbie, a gag about a hypothetical doll based on French author Marcel Proust that comes after Barbie has a Proustian memory. "In 'Remembrance of Things Past,' in 'Swann's Way,' he is thrown back into his childhood through the taste of the madeleine," Gerwig told The Associated Press. "I thought, well, that'll be a nice Easter egg for one person."

The Creation of Adam

Margot Robbie identified her favorite Easter egg as the moment when Barbie's creator, Ruth Handler, hands her a cup of tea and their hands touch like in Michelangelo's "The Creation of Adam." "It's on the same trajectory and angle as the Sistine Chapel," Gerwig told Time. "Nobody is going to notice that so I have to say it."

Barbie Video Girl

The film gives cameos to numerous discontinued Barbies, including Barbie Video Girl, a doll introduced in 2010 with a video screen in her back and a functioning camera in her necklace. The FBI issued an alert at the time warning that it could be used to create child pornography, and it was discontinued two years later.

Growing Up Skipper

The film also pokes fun at Growing Up Skipper, a controversial doll of Barbie's sister, Skipper, introduced in 1975 who would develop breasts when her arm was rotated. "When you turn her arm, you can make her change instantly from a little girl to a tall, slender teenage doll," the commercial promised. Mattel discontinued it in 1977. Skipper is also referenced as a doll that previously escaped into the real world.

Teen Talk Barbie

Another Barbie who appears in the film is 1992's Teen Talk Barbie, who controversially said phrases like "math class is tough." Women's groups criticized the doll at the time, leading Mattel to admit this phrase "should not have been included."

Palm Beach Sugar Daddy Ken

Discontinued Kens also appear, including Palm Beach Sugar Daddy Ken. This doll was introduced in 2009, and the toy's name was supposedly because of his dog. "The little dog's name is actually Sugar," Mattel told the New York Post. "That's where the name comes from. He's Sugar's daddy, as a reference to the dog."

Earring Magic Ken

Earring Magic Ken is another real Ken doll introduced in 1993. He has been referred to as Gay Ken, and author Dan Savage suggested at the time, in an article titled "Ken Comes Out," that his necklace was actually "what 10 out of 10 people in the know will tell you at a glance is a cock ring." Mattel denied this, stating, "We're not in the business of putting cock rings into the hands of little girls." The doll was discontinued after six months.

"Top Gun"

The scene of Kens playing volleyball on the beach is likely a nod to the famous, and slightly homoerotic, volleyball scene in "Top Gun."

The Snyder Cut

One of the film's funniest gags is a Barbie remarking that while she was brainwashed, she was inexplicably invested in the Zack Snyder cut of "Justice League." Passionate — some would say toxic — fans relentlessly demanded Warner Bros. release a director's cut of Snyder's DC film "Justice League" before the studio finally did so in 2021. For years, virtually any Warner Bros. social media post was met with dozens of replies demanding they release the "Snyder Cut," making it especially hilarious for the gag to appear in a Warner Bros. film.

Sí se puede

Gloria's husband says "sí se puede" near the end, which may be a nod to one of America Ferrera's earliest movies, "Gotta Kick It Up," a 2002 Disney Channel original film in which a school dance team chants this phrase. It's also the motto of the United Farm Workers of America.

Ruth Handler and her legal issues

Rhea Perlman plays Barbie inventor Ruth Handler, who also served as the president of Mattel from 1945 into the 1970s. But the film alludes to some legal issues she had, as in 1978, when the Securities and Exchange Commission charged Handler and others from Mattel with making false financial statements. She was sentenced to 2,500 hours of community service and received a $57,000 fine. Handler died in 2002 at age 85.

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Brendan Morrow

Brendan is a staff writer at The Week. A graduate of Hofstra University with a degree in journalism, he also writes about horror films for Bloody Disgusting and has previously contributed to The Cheat Sheet, Heavy, WhatCulture, and more. He lives in New York City surrounded by Star Wars posters.