Come on Barbie, let’s go party!
It’s time to talk about the cinematic achievement that is Barbie.
I finally took my girls to see the movie yesterday here in California. I felt like we were the last people in the world to go see it. My social media has been flooded with Barbie content, and the reviews (which i tried to avoid) were good, very good. I had high expectations.
So did the Barbie movie deliver? Did it meet my expectations? Did my girls enjoy it?
You betcha we did! It was everything I hoped it would be, and more.
For context, I took all my daughters to see Barbie. They are aged 14, 13, 11 and almost 7. Excitement was HIGH. We got in the mood for our cinema date by baking pink cupcakes. And the girls, of course, dressed up in as much pink as they owned. If you’ve been following me for a while you’ll know I am rather partial to the colour pink!
Let’s dive in…
What I loved about Barbie
Barbie is a cinematic masterpiece. Big call, but it delivered on the hype in so many ways. Notwithstanding the incredible set design, art direction and costumes, the movie has true heart.
There is a lot to love about this movie.
The fashion, the writing, the catchphrases (“I am Kenough”, anyone?) the art direction, music, acting is all superb. I loved Margot Robbie as Barbie, but is it wrong of me to say I enjoyed Ryan Gosling’s performance of Ken even more? He added necessary nuance colour and comedic flair to the film. And he was brilliant.
The film is layered, funny, moving, nostalgic, inventive, subversive and challenging. Plus it celebrates feminism and the SISTERHOOD. And I am all for that!
Barbie is also about mothers – their work, their sacrifice, their “shaping” of daughters, their letting go. If you’re parenting a tween or teen girl, you will feel this very deeply during the film.
The film beautifully captures the conflicts of lifetime transitions (child, adolescent, mother, grand-parent) and explores the imperfections of humanity. It reminds us that change isn’t linear and progress can be painful.
And finally, it was entertaining. I cannot recall watching a movie with a huge smile across my face for the entire duration. It was a joy. I know of many women who say they cried at times. I did not, but I certainly felt the depth of emotion at times. It’s no walk in the park dealing with the “Real World,” but Barbie leaves you feeling hopeful for the future, especially with the next generation of girls taking the reins.
Now, don’t get me wrong, Barbie isn’t a perfect depiction of feminism or patriarchy, and some messages may feel a tad clumsy and cheesy at times. It also could have been tighter in parts, as it felt a little long. But the movie is entertaining, joyful, and clever as heck!
Is it appropriate for younger kids?
A few people have asked me about whether it’s appropriate for younger kids. I don’t think there is anything inappropriate about taking younger kids to see it. My youngest (almost 7) enjoyed it for its entertainment (and dancing and singing) but she didn’t really “get” it.
But it might be a bit trickier for kids aged 7-10 to fully grasp the deeper themes. So if you have kids in that age group you might want to think about having conversation about it beforehand to give it context, and then be prepared for questions after the movie.
It should be noted that Greta Gerwig’s work includes directing movies with strong leading ladies and coming-of-age themes such as Little Women. So Gerwig’s take on Barbie focuses on gender roles and equality, what it means to be a woman, finding happiness, and fulfillment, and even touches on death as Barbie has a bit of an existential crisis.
It has a PG13 rating, but clearly the target audience are adults (especially Gen X’ers) who have memories of playing with Barbies as kids. In saying that, each of my girls enjoyed it and understood it in different ways.
The best bits…
One of the most powerful moments is when America Ferrera’s character, Gloria, drops a bombshell monologue about the crazy expectations women have to handle.
She talks about how women are supposed to be these perfect multitaskers, juggling careers, families, and looking drop-dead gorgeous while doing it.
Gloria’s monologue hits hard with the many contradictions women face. She talks about how society expects us to be nurturing and caring, but also kickass career women who climb the ladder of success like a boss.
“It is literally impossible to be a woman,” Gloria says. “You are so beautiful, and so smart, and it kills me that you don’t think you’re good enough… I’m just so tired of watching myself and every single other woman tie herself into knots so that people will like us.
But you know what? Barbie isn’t just about the struggles. It’s all about embracing who you are and breaking free from society’s moulds. Barbie’s transformation goes way beyond her looks – it’s about discovering her true self and standing tall!
Also, to be in a theater of women and girls of all ages (dressed in zany Barbie outfits and pink galore) was a joy. To hear younger girls squealing with delight at references aimed at them, while boomers belly laughed at the references aimed their way was hugely refreshing.
Taking on a consumer icon like Barbie and weaving a socially relevant narrative about the state of women’s rights in this country is exactly what we need. Greta Gerwig pulled it off brilliantly.
In a nutshell, Barbie the movie, was a delight from start to finish. It has nuance and depth (and a sideserve of satire), and I am certain I will see it again.
Have you seen Barbie? What did you think of it?
Read on for the full text of Gloria's Showstopper speech in 'Barbie'
“You have to be thin, but not too thin. And you can never say you want to be thin. You have to say you want to be healthy, but also you have to be thin. You have to have money, but you can’t ask for money because that’s crass. You have to be a boss, but you can’t be mean. You have to lead, but you can’t squash other people’s ideas. You’re supposed to love being a mother, but don’t talk about your kids all the damn time. You have to be a career woman, but also always be looking out for other people. You have to answer for men’s bad behavior, which is insane, but if you point that out, you’re accused of complaining.
You’re supposed to stay pretty for men, but not so pretty that you tempt them too much or that you threaten other women because you’re supposed to be a part of the sisterhood. But always stand out and always be grateful. But never forget that the system is rigged. So find a way to acknowledge that but also always be grateful. You have to never get old, never be rude, never show off, never be selfish, never fall down, never fail, never show fear, never get out of line. It’s too hard! It’s too contradictory and nobody gives you a medal or says thank you! And it turns out in fact that not only are you doing everything wrong, but also everything is your fault.
I’m just so tired of watching myself and every single other woman tie herself into knots so that people will like us. And if all of that is also true for a doll just representing women, then I don’t even know.”