“Barbie” was the most anticipated movie of summer 2023, and it did not disappoint, despite controversy on its overtly feminist dialogue and criticism over an alleged “man-hating” agenda. Rather, the movie did an excellent job of balancing a story packed with nostalgia and lighthearted moments with a strong and empowering message of both equality and female empowerment.
In the film, all the characters start out in Barbie Land, which is a fantasy world where the Barbie’s live perfect days everyday. In this society, women hold all the power and careers in the universe. The Kens are subservient to Barbie and live to make Barbie happy.
After Barbie’s perfect pink world is introduced, Barbie starts to randomly malfunction and feel less than flawless. Weird Barbie sends Barbie to the real world because of the abnormalities she experienced.
Barbie finds that the real world comes with life-sized issues, while Ken grows very invested in the ideals and social construct of the patriarchy. Ken brings back his knowledge of the patriarchal society and implements it into Barbie Land, while Barbie meets with the company Mattel to try to solve her issues.
Despite the fact that the Barbie movie had a strong message, there were plenty of lighthearted and comedic moments that provoked a wide array of emotions from the audience. One iconic moment of true film included a song titled “I’m Just Ken”, sung by Ryan Gosling, who portrayed the lead Ken in the film. The “La La Land” actor made his debut on Billboard’s hot 100 with this song.
Barbie meanwhile realizes that she wants to be a creator rather than simply an idea, and she falls in love with the idea of being human. Barbara Handler, the creator of Barbie, is a character in this film played by Rhea Perlman who helps the stereotypical Barbie, played by Margot Robbie, figure out what she wants to do next in life and find her humanity.
Many critics of the film feel that men are cast in a bad light and that “Barbie” imposes over-the-top liberal and man-hating values by promoting a world where women dominate men in every aspect. Those opposed to the film also see it as a heavy-handed critique of traditional values and patriarchal society by blaming men for the issues in the real world.
However, it seems as though these critics do not understand the Barbie universe and lore. This film presents two societies at odds with one another, one being the patriarchal society of the real world and the “Kendom” and the other being that of Barbie Land.
These societies show the negative outcomes from having either a completely male-led or female-led world. The film illustrates why equality is important and why both extremes are not beneficial for either party. Barbie shows this by wanting to become human and seek higher meaning rather than return to Barbie Land. Ken shows this by waging war with the other Ken’s when the Kendom takes over.
The film argues why it is important for everyone to have a place in society and to be valued. It also does a great job demonstrating the negative repercussions of toxic masculinity for males and females. The society that completely favors and empowered Barbies also works to show how the Kens are affected by being disrespected and essentially treated like an accessory.
“Barbie” made it blatantly clear that Mattell was the first to make Barbie equal to a man; Barbie had her own car, house and more during a time when it was abnormal for women to do so. A few years later, the Ken doll came out and was made to literally act as an accessory to Barbie as her boyfriend. Barbie ended up owning everything in the toy world of Barbie and holding all of the careers, while Ken’s existence was wholly centered on Barbie.
All of the characters in the film are captivating to watch as they embody figures from the Barbie universe. It’s very nostalgic to see the characters in Barbie Land interact on the screen in the same way that children playing with dolls would. For example, floating from their house to a car or pouring drinks without real liquid because children use their imagination.
Even though Ken and Barbie don’t make the romantic duo that many audiences may have expected, they were the perfect pair for this film. Gosling really shined as a supporting player by bringing his comedic and musical talents to the cast. Robbie also brought some of her best performances, prompting audiences to laugh and cry throughout the film that meant so much to women everywhere.
Madison Wanco can be reached through email via email@example.com or on Instagram @madison.wanco.