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  • Writer's picturemissabowbissa

Thoughts On Barbie

Enjoy some little brain thoughts (almost no brain cells involved) and some big brain thoughts (academic thought and college education now applied) about Barbie (2023, dir. Greta Gerwig)

This musical fantasia of cotton candy pastels, iconic dolls, and patriarchy is positively RICH with satire and metacommentary just waiting to be teased apart. A movie about gender, social history, and constructed structures of power all wrapped in a musical pink bow? It’s basically Marissa in a movie.

For some background, I have seen Barbie three times. The first time was an early access screening called the “Barbie Blowout Party”. I was on board. I’ve been on board since the first look at Margot Robbie in that convertible. I walked into my local AMC theater in head to toe pink, ready to be fully on board…but I’m not sure I left on board.

I felt…numb. And confused. I didn’t get it. I knew I had just watched a true feat of filmmaking and I couldn’t wait to watch it again…but, really Barbie? You would abandon the utopic pink matriarchy of Barbieland for the harsh, cold Real World of patriarchy? No! Why? America Ferrera’s Gloria gave an impassioned speech about all the ways existing in the real world is exhausting. Barbie had barely stepped foot (rollerblade) into the Real World before she was constantly and relentlessly objectified. And she wanted that?! For the rest of her life?! In the simplest of terms: I don’t think so, White Savior Barbie!

But I knew I was wrong! I had missed something! It wasn’t Barbie’s fault! I was an ungenerous audience member. I was so enamored by the flashy costumes, big dance numbers, and female supreme court of Barbieland that I ignored the everyday beauty of the Real World. Maybe it’s my proclivity for sci-fi but I’m tired of the alien/humanoid/not quite human who falls in love with humanity and all that makes us beautiful. Being a human is hard. Being a woman is HARD. Who would want to choose that?!

But that is precisely the point. Life is hard. Throughout the nearly two hours of sparkly, pink camp and glamourous satire, Gerwig weaves a web of beauty in the small moments. A mother and daughter laughing. Leaves rustling. Young love. Sitting on a park bench and looking up at the sky. Life - humanity - isn’t made up of only the big, cruel moments of devastation. It is also made up of children’s laughter, duolingo, and the gynecologist. Life is mundane and messy and that is beautiful.

There is so much more to say about this movie. The dissonance of conversations of complex identity in a glorified two hour advertisement. The “critiques” of capitalism out of the mouth of a physical manifestation of branded merchandise. Gender politics. But those are big brain thoughts for another day. A series, even? Barbie continues to be the highest grossing movie of 2023 and a key touchstone of cultural conversation. The thoughts will surely continue.

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