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Why Jaws and Barbie were such blockbusters

She’s Barbie. He’s just Jaws.

Edward Vega joined the Vox video team as a video producer in 2021. His coverage focuses on all things cinema, from the intricacies of film history to the nuts and bolts of filmmaking.

Summer 2023 was the summer of Barbie.

A larger-than-life Barbie (played by Margot Robbie) in a retro blue and white striped swimsuit and cat-eye sunglasses towers above a group of young girls in a desert landscape.
Barbie, towering over our lives in 2023.
Warner Bros.

Everywhere you looked there was marketing — posters, ads, trailers. There were Barbie cafés, Barbie Progressive commercials, everyone was wearing pink! It was a delightful wave of cinematic energy.

Margot Robbie as Barbie is featured in front of a sparkly pink and sky blue background and above the words “Barbie is everything.” Warner Bros.
Ryan Gosling as Ken is pictured against a sparkly blue backdrop wearing a pink and mint-green striped shirt unbuttoned to reveal his chest. Beside his head the words “He’s just Ken” are printed. Warner Bros.
A promotional photo of a burger sitting on a pink table atop a pink newspaper titled Barbie News. The patty is covered in pink sauce. Burger King

Barbie Burger.

And it was also completely overwhelming. At times it felt inescapable.

Barbie’s marketing felt different. And in some ways it was — but it owes a lot to the blockbusters that came before.

The Jaws movie poster features a woman swimming. Beneath her, under the water, lurks a giant shark with an open mouth full of sharp teeth.
Jaws Poster.

Jaws is considered to be the first summer blockbuster for a lot of reasons — but most importantly (and most symmetrically with Barbie) because of its marketing. It was the first time that a studio flooded the market with advertising. In the summer of 1975, Jaws was inescapable.

A black-and-white photograph of a long line of people waiting outside the movie theater to watch Jaws.
Just look at the line! How could you miss the movie event of the summer?
Getty Images

Since then, studios have tried to replicate that strategy pretty much every year.

But Barbie was different — because, unlike most blockbusters, Barbie was unabashedly feminine, fun, and pink. If you’d like to learn about how Barbie stole the summer, check out the latest Vox video.

You can find this video and the entire library of Vox’s videos on YouTube.