There are a lot of words that exist as neutral descriptors in the English language that have socially been used as insults. For example, describing oneself as “fat” (like I do for myself) is a neutral term like “tall” or “brunette,” but for many people, it’s the source of ire as others have weaponized it as a term meant to cause harm. The word “stereotypical” falls under the same umbrella, where on its own it’s a neutral term, but has since become an insult depending on who is saying it and what the intentions are behind the word.
“The word ‘stereotypical’ has negative connotations attached to it,” explained Robbie. “[Mattel] asked if we would consider a different word.” Robbie agreed that they could always call her “Generic Barbie,” “Original Barbie,” or “Blonde Barbie,” but wanted Mattel to understand that using other words would miss the point the film is trying to make. “The word ‘stereotypical’ is important because she is already putting parameters around herself that she is, later in the movie, going to step out of and break free,” Robbie said. “So that’s important for her journey. She needs to start there, referring to herself as Stereotypical Barbie, because she’s already putting herself down without realizing it.”
When Stereotypical Barbie describes herself and her name, she does so in a neutral way, explaining that when someone is asked to “think of a Barbie,” the visual of someone who looks like her is what they imagine. That’s not inherently a bad thing, but as America Ferrera’s Gloria later explains in her big monologue about womanhood, “Not only are you doing everything wrong, but also everything is your fault.” She had to be Stereotypical Barbie because she had to be described with a neutral term that could also be used to discredit.
Welcome to womanhood, babe.