There has been no shortage of thoughtful opinions and emotional reactions to the Barbie movie. As the summer blockbuster that broke the billion-dollar box office record for women directors, and because it’s a woman-centered story, it was bound to generate a ‘vigorous response.’ “It’s too, pink!” “Barbie’s a man-hating movie.” “I did not expect to love this movie.”
From the use of Stanley Kubrick’s iconic 2001: A Space Odyssey music and slow-motion camera work in the baby doll-smashing intro, to the fantastic set designs, perfect costumes (by two-time Oscar winner Jacqueline Durran), and the surprise ending. There is SO MUCH to see and respond to in this film.
Barbie audiences have included what we might consider an unexpected number of men. Allies, curious, or whipped-like-Ken? No matter their motivation to see it, guys might not fully connect with the details of Barbie’s world. Boys during the 60s, when the first adult female doll became popular, typically didn’t play with Barbies. For those of us who did, Barbie was a toy that we really bonded over. Girls made serious, powerful memories connected to those dolls; to our friends, moms, and other women in our lives who made Barbie clothes for us and supported our creativity. Girls got together to “play Barbies.” We collaborated to imagine her world and recreate her life every time we played with her. Barbie got dressed up and driven around; taken to all the places we fully expected to go to one day ourselves. As in the movie, if we had a Ken doll, he was on the outside looking in on whatever Barbie was doing. Ken was not central to our Barbie’s activities. In the movie as with our playing, and still in contrast to the real world, Barbie-time was girl-time!
Who would agree? Weird Barbie really was a thing! So many of us had a hand-me-down, roughed-up Barbie whose hair was a mess, clothes worn out, shoes all lost. These indignities didn’t necessarily keep her from being played with but, she definitely had a unique role—just like in the movie—as a stand-in, savior, or provider of spare parts and strategy!
The writers and director jam-packed this film with dialogue and details that strike very different chords for people. Viewers in full-to-capacity theaters reported communal laughter and tears. It’s an instant classic. Loved for the fun, female theme. Ridiculed for that same fun, female theme. It’s a lightning rod for the culture war. You know the language. It’s said to be filled with a ‘woke agenda’ because, in an entertaining way, the movie calls out patriarchy for the unenlightened. That radical Barbie is poisoning people with the truth.
The Barbie movie doesn’t need to be a feminist statement or, an anti-male story. But, it sure is an instant classic. It’s a mirror, an experience. It’s time travel. A lesson in recent and future history. The film felt like an allegory for growing up in our culture.
It was tough to see “Stereo-typical Barbie—a perfect fit in her own world—with no comfortable place in reality. It was upsetting to see Ryan Gosling’s Ken so intoxicated by his discovery of the patriarchal power at his disposal. It all brought back a familiar adolescent melancholy. It evoked that inevitable disappointment that’s part of trading in the imaginary world of childhood toys for the social rigors of being a tween; the discovery that life is not as nice, or fun, as they led us to believe. The details illustrate the fact that being a woman in a patriarchy is not for the faint of heart.
“Barbie, the movie, might make a few missteps as a feminist polemic, but it largely succeeds as a gleefully subversive look at the dehumanizing effects of inequality and how a simple idea can change the world.” by Paul Kanieski, KSQD Community Radio
Nonetheless, TROUBLE suggests that the success of the film lies in the deeply embedded story. There’s a through-line about how excruciatingly slow progress is. The backlash to every stride of progress for equity is not-so-subtly expressed in the movie. Barbie couldn’t be more timely. The Barbie movie is a far-flung net meant to capture the last pop-culture junkie who still doesn’t know the truth. The truth is that there are still people who do not want, and continue to vigorously work against all efforts to allow women equal status in the world!
Right now, right here, in light of the challenges we face, Barbie is not just a political film. It is THE political film of the year. Please see it. Enjoy it. Share it and have a conversation with someone about it. When you do, tell them about TROUBLE.
At the ripe old age of three, TROUBLE wishes the world much love.
Stay tuned for more insights and inspiration.
Share what you learn here with the TroubleMakers you know and love.
SPEAK UP – SPEAK OUT. THIS REALLY MATTERS.