Barbie sparks conversation and creates a sense of visibility for women

Greta Gerwig’s reinvention of Mattel’s toy offers a satirical take on the character and her influence on cultural norms

Greta Gerwig’s Barbie is a unique blend of a feminist master's thesis and an Austin Powers-style comedy, pushing boundaries and touches on significant social issues. (Wikicommons/Linhphampham)

Greta Gerwig’s Barbie is a unique blend of a feminist master’s thesis and an Austin Powers-style comedy, pushing boundaries and touches on significant social issues. (Wikicommons/Linhphampham)

As I walked into the theatre, swimming past a deluge of pink, I didn’t know what to expect. Growing up, I never liked playing with dolls or doing anything considered “hyper feminine.” Barbies weren’t something I played with or had, and there had been so much buzz over Greta Gerwig’s reinvention of Mattel’s infamous toy that it almost felt overhyped. 

The lights dimmed and we were moved to a pastel pink haven in which all the problems of feminism and equal rights had been solved. In “Barbieland,” these Barbies could be anything they want to be, and set the absolute inspiration for equivalent feminine achievement around the world, the “real world,” that is. 

In the film, everyone in Barbieland is Barbie, except the men, who are just Ken. At the centre of it all is producer-star Margot Robbie’s “Stereotypical Barbie.” It comes as a surprise when this habitually smiley creature finds herself haunted by thoughts of sadness, anxiety, and death. 

A meeting with “Weird Barbie” reveals a connection to the real world. Stereotypical Barbie embarks on a journey to reality with Stowaway Ken (Ryan Gosling). In this reality, they encounter a world called “The Patriarchy,” where men hold all the power.

Barbie boldly addresses the challenges faced by women, expressing their frustrations, which may seem overt but resonate deeply with many viewers. Barbie, initially grappling with self-pity and existential uncertainty, is encouraged by Gloria to forgive herself for her flaws and the unrealistic expectations placed on women today. This empowering moment ignites a journey to reclaim Barbieland.

The movie concludes with Barbie, now human, humorously visiting the gynecologist. This lighthearted moment alludes to the absence of genitals in dolls, emphasizing the importance of reproductive health and breaking the taboo surrounding the topic. 

The film explores the deeper consequences of Barbie’s image on society and the impact it has on women’s self-perception and gender dynamics. It offers a satirical take on the iconic Barbie character and her influence on cultural norms. Overall, the film leans heavily on its feminist critique, but struggles to deliver a nuanced or thought-provoking narrative, occasionally compromising its message with overt storytelling.

Barbie is a unique blend of a feminist master’s thesis and an Austin Powers-style comedy. It’s a wildly comedic and deranged film that aims to humanize its iconic plastic protagonist while also critiquing the society we live in, where men are in crisis, and women often face objectification on social media. The movie seeks to heal the world but acknowledges the resistance it might encounter, cleverly using postmodern irony and deep contemplation to add depth to the narrative and challenge societal norms.

The film also stands out as a visionary cinematic achievement of the century, boasting stunning cinematography, creative visuals, and smartly designed costumes and sets. It’s filled with bright and beautiful visuals, reminiscent of candy-coated delights. Reviewers even predict potential Oscar recognition for Ryan Gosling’s performance of Stowaway Ken, a successful box office run for the female director, and possibly some controversial reactions from certain groups.

Barbie also has the emotional power to move its audience deeply, with the potential to make many viewers, including moms, shed tears, even on an airplane. 

The movie’s promotion was also a success, which can be attributed to its ability to appeal to a pre-existing market who have grown up with Barbie. Since 1959, this affordable toy has been both controversial and cherished for many years. For others in the audience who played with Barbies, it gave them a direct experience with the intricate impact such a doll, who embodies endless possibilities while maintaining an appearance of perfection, can have on young girls.

Throughout the film, Gerwig skillfully employs humour to spark conversations and create a sense of visibility, especially for women. The movie pushes boundaries and touches on significant social issues while delivering its message through clever and thought-provoking storytelling. And lest we forget America Ferrera’s monologue, a love letter to women everywhere.