Greta Gerwig cast Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling as picturesque Barbie and Ken lookalikes in her forthcoming live-action Barbie film, but one missing thing may keep the adaptation from reaching peak camp: According to Variety, Aqua’s 1997 song “Barbie Girl,” which immortalized the Mattel doll’s life in plastic as a suggestive pop song, won’t appear in the film.
“The song will not be used in the movie,” Ulrich Møller-Jørgensen, who manages Aqua lead singer Lene Nystrøm, simply said. While Møller-Jørgensen’s curt statement doesn’t give us much to go on, the omission of “Barbie Girl” from the film may have something to do with Aqua’s strained history with Mattel.
“Barbie Girl” became an instant classic upon its release, selling over 1.4 million copies in the US and staying at No. 1 in the UK. And while most of us probably tuned out (if not reveled in) Nystrøm’s “Undress me anywhere” lyrics in favor of the song’s infectious bubblegum pop melody, Mattel was less thrilled with Aqua’s adult direction.
Concerned about their wholesome image, the toy company sued the Danish band’s US label, MCA Records, for trademark infringement. In turn, MCA argued that their parody was protected by the First Amendment, and filed their own lawsuit for defamation over statements a Mattel spokesperson made during the lawsuit.
“Even if we found the lyrics acceptable, we would be filing this suit because the song was published and distributed without our permission and certainly without our notification,” the spokesperson reportedly said. “They are referring to this song as upbeat and fun, and it’s really our belief that unlawful exploitation of another company’s property for one’s own commercial gain is neither upbeat or fun. It’s theft.”
Ultimately, nothing came of the court battle, as the United States District Court in California dismissed both claims as non-actionable. “The parties are advised to chill,” United States Court of Appeals circuit judge Alex Kozinski ruled. What will Barbie blare in her pink Corvette now?
Barbie hits theaters on July 21st, 2023. Kate McKinnon, Alexandra Shipp, America Ferrera, Simu Liu, Will Ferrell, and Hari Nef also appear in the film, which Gerwig co-wrote with Noah Baumbach.