Thursday, July 20, 2023



Stereotypical Barbie (Margot Robbie) is forced to go through an existential crisis as her human owner, Gloria (America Ferrera), who happens to be an employee of Mattel, unleashes her disillusionment in life through her Barbie sketches that defy convention. Seeking advice from Weird Barbie (Kate McKinnon), who believes the only way for her to go back to normal is to head to the real world to confront the girl playing with her, Barbie ends up at Venice Beach with Ken (Ryan Gosling) in tow as they both try to navigate the strangeness of the mortal world that is so alien to them. While Barbie searches for answers and eventually finds Mattel’s California HQ as well as its current CEO (Will Ferrell), Ken is mesmerized by the concept of patriarchy, which he decides to bring back with him to Barbieland to initiate a Ken-led revolution, toppling the power the Barbies once wielded. Can Barbie still go back not just to her old self but also to her old world or should these recent changes be embraced instead of shunned?

Growing up, my exposure to Barbie was rather limited. Us, boy cousins, always stayed in our own room playing with Legos and Nintendo. Who knows what was really going on in the girl cousins’ room. I could only count three instances when we got hold of their Barbies: 1) we applied bubbly toothpaste to her mouth because she “got food poisoning”; 2) we shaved all her hair; and 3) we cremated one on the grill. What? It was barbecue weekend! I wasn’t expecting Barbie to be happy to see me in her live action film debut. On the contrary, I did enjoy what Greta Gerwig had to say as well as how she delivered it.

There will always be the undying debate on whether Barbie is a feminist icon or a tool of patriarchy to keep women subjugated. If a doll is to have an existential crisis, this is, without a doubt, what Barbie would be asking herself since her inception. Gerwig presents this by cleverly crafting Barbieland as a mirror image of the real world. There, Barbies have all the power while Kens are just Kens. And so what happens when Ken gets an epiphany that this should not be the case? That is the entire plot.

Ken is not really the villain here, though. Instead of going down that route, Gerwig gives him an avenue for self-exploration in lieu. Perhaps this is the reason why almost everyone has been raving about Gosling. After all, the film has always been marketed as Barbie’s movie. Watching the finished product makes you realize, however, that this is Ken’s film as much as it is Barbie’s. As such, your takeaway is not really simplified as: Boys = Bad, Girls = Good. Instead, Ken is given an off-ramp to reflect on his raison d’etre, his purpose, and who he really is WITHOUT Barbie.

If we are to adapt the feminist perspective touting Barbie as an icon, then this is the idea that will oscillate in your brain. Regardless if you see yourself as a Barbie or as a Ken, the more important question is who are you without your Barbie or Ken. To me, that is a good thing, especially for an entire generation of children-now-adults whose roles in society were heavily dictated by gender politics. In a way, that's what Barbie has always been, a fantasy world where you can be anything you want to be when the real world just wouldn't allow you to.

Of course, this will not sit well with the conservative crowd because they hate any storyline that doesn’t have them as the main character. That’s why you have, of all people, grown men, many of them white males way past their thirties, whining even before this film came out, which begs the question: Did you, guys, grow up playing or wanting to play Barbies but just couldn't for you to be this riled up to gatekeep a movie about a fictional doll that was never intended to be marketed to your demographic? If so, it’s never too late to buy a Barbie set at your nearest Toys R’ Us shop. Unleash your inner BarbiElsa, bruh. Like, Let It Go. We’ll be here to support you no matter what. No judgment.

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