My intention when I went to see the Barbie movie was to feel a fun sense of nostalgia for all the Barbie dolls I had growing up.
It certainly did that. I remember vividly my own, poor, battered ‘Weird Barbie’.
What I didn’t bank on was feeling unbelievably emotional. Could this be the ultimate, multi-generational existential crisis movie?
By the end, I just wanted to go home and give my daughter a hug. This film takes you through this beautiful journey for any child that loves their Barbies. You’re taken through childhood to adulthood, to being a parent, and even through to the when Barbie would just be a childhood memory.
“If you love Barbie, you’ll love this movie. And if you hate Barbie, you’ll love this movie.”
This is why every parent should see the Barbie movie.
The Barbie film begins explaining the initial concept for Barbie back in 1959. This was that ‘Women can be anything’ – because Barbie is anything. Barbie was the first doll modelled on the adult female form. And it didn’t base its marketing on women just keeping the home clean.
My first thought with this was – why wasn’t I ’empowered’ by my Barbies if this was such a prominent selling point for Mattel?
Simple put, sadly society didn’t allow that message to get to my 6 year old self. That message was drowned out by ‘unachievable body standards’ or ‘She’s just a dumb blonde doll’. But really, didn’t that just shine a glaring spotlight on those things when I hadn’t even noticed them in the first place?
What is the Barbie movie about?
The premise of the film is that Barbie is having an existential crisis and doesn’t know why.
Up until that point she had lived in ‘perfect’ Barbieland, where Barbies/women have all the power, and Ken’s are essentially an accessory. Then there is Allan: “Ken’s Buddy, his clothes fit him”. – so if Ken is the accessory, Allan is the wardrobe.
Barbieland is under the misconception that the Barbie doll has empowered women forever. When Barbie is forced to come to the real world, she quickly finds that is not the case.
‘I worked really hard and I deserve this’
The impact that Barbie intended to have on women versus what society dumped on us is vast.
When the Barbies in Barbieland accept awards and achievements they don’t say ‘Thank you’, they say: ‘I worked really hard and I deserve this.’ Another is told they are an inspiration, and responds with: ‘I know’.
I certainly aim to pass that onto my daughter, not my crippling feeling of imposter syndrome, inferiority or apologising for absolutely everything. You don’t have to be grateful to anyone for working hard. And you can acknowledge your own pride without it seeming arrogant.
In a world of imposter syndrome – be a Barbie, and take accountability for how great you are.
If that was the initial intention of the Barbie doll, then that was sadly lost on me and many others. But this film shines a light on what Barbie was meant to be. We see what has happened to its reputation, and how we can take back that positive message and pass it on for the future.
‘There is no ‘just Ken’’
In this world, Ken is essentially an accessory. What does this mean for Ken? He doesn’t know who he is without Barbie.
The irony is that when Barbie and Ken were released in 1961, women still couldn’t open a bank account without a male-cosigner. Astronaut Barbie was also released over 10 years before women were permitted to be recruited by NASA.
Ken has an air of familiarity. And we’re laughing at him. Which makes me have to play devil’s advocate as many men, unexpectedly, have taken to social media to announce that the Barbie movie is ‘man-hating’.
But what better way to shine a light on societal issues than to hold a mirror up to them. Director Greta Gerwig knew exactly what she was doing in this instance, she noticed the glaring irony and brought it to everyone’s attention and thensome.
So if you haven’t already, watch the film, then reflect on these themes either with yourself, your partner, your kids and even your own parents:
Embrace your accomplishments – Replace thank you with ‘I deserve this!’
In a sea of Kens, be an Allan – Find your individualism
Embrace your child, theoretically and emotionally – Being an adult doesn’t mean that playtime ends. And pass that onto your children too.
Beauty doesn’t equate to a lack of achievement – What makes you feel beautiful? Be unapologetically you.