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Why Pregnant Barbies Were So Controversial (And Had To Be Ripped From Shelves)

Contains spoilers for "Barbie"

Anyone who's even vaguely familiar with the concept of Barbie as a toy probably knows that there have been a million different iterations of Barbie and her fellow doll friends throughout the years. One of those aforementioned friends is Midge, one of Barbie's buddies — and one particular version of Midge made waves when it was first released.

Back in 2002, Mattel, for some reason, saw fit to make a pregnant version of Midge — and before long, it ended up pulled from Wal-Mart's shelves entirely. According to a CBS news report from that year, customers complained that a pregnant Barbie doll was just too weird. "It was just that customers had a concern about having a pregnant doll," Cynthia Illick, the then-spokesperson for the mega-mart chain, said to CBS. To be totally fair to those customers, the description of said doll sounds horrifying. Pregnant Midge came with her husband Alan and their three-year-old son Ryan, but the really unsettling part is that the doll apparently had a detachable magnetic stomach that allowed the child playing with her to, uh, deliver the baby when they saw fit. A doll that looks pregnant is one thing; a doll whose stomach comes off and "makes" a plastic baby is quite another.

Pregnant Midge is barely a part of the Barbie movie

Midge is fleetingly referred to throughout the movie, but it's made clear immediately that the product has been discontinued simply because she's too weird, so she only appears on the fringes of scenes set in Barbie Land. As Stereotypical Barbie (Margot Robbie) floats around living her perfect life, she's surrounded by President Barbie (Issa Rae), Doctor Barbie (Hari Nef), Writer Barbie (Alexandra Shipp), and Physicist Barbie (Emma Mackey), among many other accomplished and brilliant Barbies — but dolls like Pregnant Midge and Kate McKinnon's Weird Barbie are relegated to the fringes of society.

This all changes after Ken (Ryan Gosling) discovers the "joys" of patriarchy out in the real world and transforms Barbie Land into "Kendom," declaring that the boy dolls are in charge now — and Barbie and Weird Barbie have to assemble an emergency army to deprogram the other Barbies and take the power back from their Kens. Pregnant Midge doesn't directly show up in this sequence, but she's right there at the end again, cradling her belly — and hopefully, the other Barbies will include her a little bit more going forward.

Pregnant Midge is played by an Academy Award winner

Perhaps the funniest part of Pregnant Midge's inclusion in "Barbie" is who plays her — Emerald Fennell. Fennell is an Academy Award-winning writer — she wrote and directed the divisive yet critically acclaimed 2021 film "Promising Young Woman" and won the Oscar for her scathing original screenplay — and if she looks at all familiar, then you're likely a fan of "The Crown." In the fourth season of Netflix's original series, Fennell played a younger version of Camilla Parker-Bowles, stuck in a deeply dysfunctional love triangle with Josh O'Connor's Prince Charles and Emma Corrin's Princess Diana.

So how did Fennell end up in "Barbie?" Neither writer-director Greta Gerwig nor Fennell has done an interview as of this writing, but it's important to note that Margot Robbie's production company, LuckyChap, produced "Promising Young Woman," with Robbie credited as an executive producer on the film. It feels likely, then, that Robbie called Fennell up — LuckyChap also produced "Barbie" — and asked her to be a part of the movie, and Fennell joined the cast as Pregnant Midge. In any case, it's an astonishing Easter egg, as well as wildly impressive that "Barbie" features a literal Oscar winner in a tiny, silent role just for fun.