Barbie review: be the subject not the object

The Barbie logo by Mattel

Barbie is a feminist masterpiece. Feminism is the belief in the equality of the sexes. Barbie and Ken both learn about equality of the sexes in their growth through an adventure in the real world.

Margot Robbie surveys Barbieland
Would you look at that set!!!

Barbieland is home of the female gaze. The Barbies are everything. The Kens only matter when they are gazed upon by a Barbie. It’s the exact opposite of the real world.

The arc of the story takes both Barbie and Ken on a journey of self discovery to figure out who they are as individuals. They learn to be their best selves.

Margot Robbie in Barbie
The baby doll girls see Barbie for the first time

As you know, I’m old. Too old to have had a Barbie as a child. All my dolls were baby dolls. The opening scene, narrated by Helen Mirren, with little girls and their baby dolls was the part of the movie that really spoke to me. When they saw their first Barbie (Margot Robbie) as a woman who could do anything, be anything, it was a revelation. No more baby dolls for that crowd!

There were many things to love about this film co-written by Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach and directed by Greta Gerwig. I’ll mention a few.

Things to Love About Barbie

Ana Cruz Kayne, Alexandra Shipp, Sharon Rooney, Hari Nef, and Emma Mackey in Barbie
Beautiful diversity in Barbieland

I love the inclusive cast. Barbies came in all colors and shapes. There was a trans Barbie. There was a Barbie in a wheelchair. There was a pregnant Barbie. Some of the actors who got to be Barbie included Issa Rae, Kate McKinnon, Alexandra Shipp, Emma Mackey, Hari Nef, Sharon Rooney, and Ana Cruz Kayne.

The Kens were equally varied. With Ryan Gosling as the main Ken, others included Simu Liu, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Nauti Gatta, and John Cena. There was only one Allan (Michael Cera), however.

Depending on your gaydar, you may have noticed all the gay underpinnings in some of the Kens and Barbies. More inclusiveness.

Ryan Gosling and Margot Robbie in Barbie
Let’s go to the real world

I loved the hilarious trip from Barbieland to the real world and back again. So childlike and playful.

I loved it when Barbie told the older woman with the swollen ankles who sat beside her on a bench that she was beautiful. The woman agreed with her! That’s some actualized real-world womanhood there. #EldersRock.

I loved it when Barbie met the creator of the Barbie doll, Ruth Handler (Rhea Perlman). I loved it when Ruth helped set her free.

America Ferrera, Margot Robbie, and Ariana Greenblatt skate on Venice Beach
The trip back to Barbieland begins on skates

I loved that the dark thoughts of Gloria (America Ferrera), a Mattel employee, drew Barbie out of Barbieland and into the real world. At first Barbie thought it was Gloria’s daughter Sasha (Ariana Greenblatt) who needed her, but it was the mom.

I loved that every single person in the Mattel boardroom from Mattel CEO (Will Ferrell) on down was a man. Their motive for creating the toys was profit, of course. Concepts like stirring the imaginations of the little girls and boys who were their customers didn’t matter.

I loved that both Gloria and daughter went back to Barbieland where Gloria delivered the now famous monologue about how difficult it is to be a woman in the patriarchy. Her words snapped the Barbies out of the hypnotic spell of patriarchy Ken brought back to Barbieland. Gloria helped the Barbie’s retake their world.

I loved the ending. Barbie decided she wanted to be the one doing things rather than the one things were done to. And Ken learned to value himself as a person without the gaze of Barbie to “activate” him.

In summary, the film was a gorgeous, pink, playful celebration of equality, diversity, and feminist values.

I loved it.

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