Created during Brazil’s 2018 presidential election, Instagram account Barbie Fascionista published memetic images of the Barbie doll that were accompanied by captions and short texts in which the character expressed racist, classist, homophobic and sexist views, as well as her support for far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro. The profile – which was among several social media accounts that popularized the meme known as Fascist Barbie – quickly garnered more than 100,000 followers and received coverage from important Brazilian and foreign news outlets such as Folha de S. Paulo and Le Monde. Its main character – who represents a white, female, middle- or upper-class social media influencer – clearly satirizes Brazil’s affluent segments and engages with the polarized climate that permeated the 2018 election and divided the country between progressives and conservatives. Considering the increasing importance of digital artifacts such as memes for political debates and the significant sociopolitical moment that Brazil is going through, the study is based on the research question: How do the memetic images and texts published by Instagram account Barbie Fascionista portray the Brazilian middle and upper classes? Because the content of Barbie Fascionista features complex interconnections between written and visual texts, the investigation relies on a multimodal approach that combines two complementary research techniques – semiotic analysis and Critical Discourse Analysis. In total, the analysis encompasses 45 posts that were published by the account between October 11 and December 24, 2018. The results show that, in line with the ideologically and politically polarized context in which Barbie Fascionista is embedded, the profile invariably depicts the members of the middle and upper classes of Brazil as privileged, prejudiced and conservative. Despite the lack of nuance, many of the criticisms conveyed by the account echo scholarly interpretations which denounce the widespread presence of classist, racist, sexist and homophobic discourses in Brazilian society. Furthermore, Barbie Fascionista also conveys, implicitly, a criticism against American economic and cultural imperialism. The account highlights the potential of humor to delegitimize dominant discourses and features many characteristics of memes such as intertextuality, remixes and parodies. Barbie Fascionista’s discursive sophistication is paradoxical because, at the same time that it allows the account to deliver powerful messages, the subtleness of its criticisms might cause the audience to interpret the content differently from what its creators expected.

Additional Metadata
Keywords media, culture, society, Brazil, memes, Barbie, politics, prejudice
Thesis Advisor M. Sommier
Persistent URL hdl.handle.net/2105/50081
Series Media, Culture & Society
Citation
U. Sawczuk da Silva. (2019, June 27). Dolls gone fascist How Instagram account Barbie Fascionista satirized the Brazilian middle and upper classes. Media, Culture & Society. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/2105/50081