“Hi, Barbie!”, or the Magic of Pink at Dragon Con 2023

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I’ve been going to Dragon Con and other conventions in costume for more than 20 years. I’ve worn Star Wars, Mass Effect, and Ghostbusters costumes, all of which have ongoing communities of cosplayers and meetups. But never have I seen the kind of instant community that happened at this year’s Dragon Con thanks to the color pink.

We all know about the record-breaking popularity of the Barbie movie. But I was unprepared for the record-breaking popularity of Barbie costumes. At Friday morning’s Barbie photoshoot, there were too many Barbies to get in the picture. Literally. The shoot started in a smaller space, moved to the larger area where photoshoots happen, and there was still not enough room to get all the Barbies and Kens in together. I’ve been to and in many Dragon Con photoshoots, including the always-expansive Marvel shoot, and I’ve never seen that happen.

I brought two myself to Dragon Con—one Weird Barbie from the movie, and because our hotel was Super Mario themed, I created a Mario Barbie costume. (It’s-a me, Barbie-o!) I knew from the Facebook groups before the event that I’d be seeing plenty of other Weird Barbies. At the Barbie photoshoot alone (and there were plenty who weren’t there!), we had 31 Weird Barbies.

But the true magic came the first time I heard someone say two cheerful words: “Hi, Barbie!” It’s been a few weeks since I saw the movie, but I instinctively remembered and knew what to do. “Hi, Barbie!” I chirped back. “Hi, Barbie!” came another voice from nearby.

This went on all weekend. You couldn’t go anywhere without hearing, “Hi, Barbie!” as pink-clad cosplayers greeted each other. And of course, it was hardly limited to in-movie Barbies. There were plenty of standard Barbies, both movie and doll. But then endless mashup Barbies! Dragon Con loves a good mashup, and all it takes for this one is to paint it pink. Leia Barbie greeted Uhura Barbie. Sailor Moon Barbie greeted zombie Barbie. Barbenheimers greeted each other.

And it never. Got. Old.

My top Dragon Con moments of all time now include a little girl, probably around five, clearly wearing movie-Barbie’s pink checkered dress. She said, “Hi, Barbie!” to me, and I said, “Hi, Barbie!” back. She gasped, “You know I’m a Barbie, too!” It was that adorable kind of joy that only comes from a five-year-old being recognized as being the character they pretend to be.

That said, my condolences to those who wore pink this Labor Day weekend in Atlanta but were not dressed as Barbie. Because if you were in pink, you were a Barbie. I said, “Hi, Barbie!” to a Miss Yvonne who took it in stride. I saw a, “Hi, Barbie!” to a Dolores Umbridge—that one felt awkward. Then finally a few days in, I saw one exasperated Facebook comment, “Not everything pink is Barbie!” But it was a brief backlash, because at Dragon Con 2023, you were a Barbie or a Ken. (Possibly an Allan or a Midge, but then you’d better be in stripes or pregnant.)

It wasn’t long before non-Barbies started greeting Barbies, too, because the joy was contagious. As I sit here typing this, I’m a little sad that I haven’t heard a single, “Hi, Barbie!” since I got home. Days later, Dragon Con groups online are lamenting the lack of “Hi, Barbie!” in regular life (and warning that you probably shouldn’t say, “Hi, Barbie!” to random strangers wearing pink outside of con). It was truly a special spirit that I hope was not one-time-only.

And if you haven’t had the pleasure yet, I highly recommend watching, either on streaming (Amazon Prime, Google Play, and Apple+) on September 12 or in the IMAX release starting September 22. The latter includes new end-credits footage, and on streaming you’ll get an extra half-hour of content in six featurettes.

Meanwhile, check out this gallery of Dragon Con Barbies (click one to enlarge and flip through):

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