Summer 2023: When Women Saved the Economy 

We can all learn a thing or two from the entertainment landscape this summer. With Taylor Swift about to finish up the first leg of her massive Eras Tour (which could elevate her to billionaire status) and Barbie surpassing $800 million at the box office and counting, the summer has been all about women-centered entertainment. The two events alone have created wonderful memories for me this summer, seeing the Eras Tour with my husband as a Christmas 2023 present and seeing Barbie with my sisters, the first time just the four of us went out together in years. 

The Taylor Swift Effect has been real. The hugely popular singer-songwriter has boosted the economy in every city she’s stopped in. In my hometown of Pittsburgh, the singer generated $46 million dollars in direct spending, from hotels, restaurants, retail, transportation, and attractions. Hotel occupancy averaged 95 percent the weekend Swift was in Pittsburgh. That doesn’t even count the elaborate outfits fans are spending money on as well. Analysts have even created a name for the bump in revenue cities see when Swift arrives — they call it the “T-Swift Lift.” 

Barbie’s opening weekend made $162 million, ushering in a new era for female-centered movies. Director Greta Gerwig’s film about the plastic doll girls have played with since the 1950s is now the highest grossing film ever by a female director. Its success is direct proof that movies with a female lead can dominate, especially in the Marvel era that doesn’t seem to ever end, with sequel after sequel after prequel. The Barbie movie’s originality is refreshing and empowering at the same time. 

Jefferies US, a financial services company, economist Thomas Simons told Yahoo Finance he hasn’t seen anything like the Barbie and Swift obsession this summer in his 15-plus years working in economic research. 

According to recent data from Bank of America, card spending on entertainment and clothing spiked about 13 percent the week of Barbie’s release. Women (including myself) were spending to get into the Barbie spirit, buying bright pink outfits or dressing up as certain Barbies like “Lawyer Barbie,” or “Doctor Barbie,” often playing off their actual careers. 

Songs like “The Man” by Swift have lyrics that follow the zeitgheist:

I’m so sick of running as fast as I can
Wondering if I’d get there quicker
If I was a man
And I’m so sick of them coming at me again
‘Cause if I was a man
Then I’d be the man 

Photos from night one of the Pittsburgh Eras Tour show. Photo by Kate Oczypok.

America Ferrara’s character in Barbie has a powerful monologue that brought audible claps in the theater when I saw it. An excerpt (WARNING: SPOILER) is below: 

“I’m just so tired of watching myself and every single other woman tie herself into knots so that people will like us. And if all of that is also true for a doll just representing women, then I don’t even know.” 

Maybe it’s time the Kens of the world take pop culture moments like Barbie and Taylor Swift and make more women-centered entertainment. I’d say it’s obviously working.  




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