Barbie (2023)

Published on 28 July 2023 at 20:24

My oh my, I had several lovely friends request my thoughts for Barbie after I saw it in theatres, dressed clad in a flamboyant pink halter top. In all honesty, I'd been more excited about the hype for the movie. My friends and I got all dressed up, ate some food, and kicked our feet excitedly in the back aisle as we whispered about how Ryan Gosling suddenly seems attractive to us, and how we were curious to see Michael Cera's performance. I didn't expect to leave the theatres teary-eyed. So strap in, because this is QUITE the word salad.

Simply put, I loved it. All of the creatives behind this creation had full intentions of making the theme abundantly clear, which I appreciated. 

First and foremost, the movie was BEAUTIFUL. Costume, makeup, set, CGI, soundtrack... everything was cohesive and an elaborate performance, as you'd expect from a $145 million budget project. As I sat in theatres watching the movie that healed some of the wounds I'd nursed from girlhood without ever comprehending, I simultaneously basked in the gorgeous cinematography and cute quippy dialogue. I feel that this movie has elements that every woman could relate to, and most men could if they took the time to see past the pink and short board shorts.

I feel my favorite thing about it was the necessary role of each character, and what they represented. Barbie was clearly the protagonist. While I have seen some discourse arguing that Ken was the villain, I am offended that anyone who watched this movie would feel that way, as it completely negates the purpose of the film. Ken was an antagonist, although none of the roles were meant to be villainized; if you really wanted to villainize anyone, it would much more be Mattel and Will Ferrell's character, as they are the proprietors of the unrealistic beauty standards in Barbieland, and metaphorically, "the patriarchy." 

"The patriarchy" is a heavy term. But broken down for anyone that felt offput by the clear political tones, the patriarchy is just a way of describing how most positions of power and influence are given to men, and have been for years. Just like many political buzzwords, it's tossed around flippantly. The boys' football teams at school are not representative of the patriarchy. The men crowding together on Tinder to pull the same girls aren't the patriarchy. But they are exhibit some inadvertent traits that are a result of the patriarchy, just like everyone in our society is. We've had a patriarchal society since our founding, so there are unprecedented ways in which this has shaped the development of our communities. This movie is an analysis on the ways the patriarchy can shape us all, and has. If your takeaway is "men suck! I hate men! It's all their fault!" or "this is just another excuse for the feminazis to radicalize younger generations!", then you're wrong. Simply put. It's about us, sure, but it's about them. Those in power. 

Because Ken is shown as being a victim. Even in the end, when he's evolved into his antagonist role and tries to dominate Barbieland, we later learn that he was just doing what he thought would make him happy. He'd had a taste of the patriarchy, of the men that bathe in the privilege they harbor, and he wanted a taste of it. He'd felt broken and misguided by Barbie's disinterest in him, and rather than express how he felt in a heartfelt way, he put on a mask. Ironically enough, the men that are warped into their own delusions about masculinity and manhood watched this and completely disregarded the movie's point. Men are often victim just as much as women are, but in different ways. 

I'm going to explain my love for Michael Cera and Allan later, but I must admit - one of my favorite characters was actually the one that annoyed me the most, simply because her role was so crucial. 

 

Sasha was the teenage daughter of one of the supporting characters. She is depicted as an angsty preteen, immediately throwing up misogynistic retorts and insults at Barbie upon their first meeting. To me, Sasha is like the young girls that get wrapped up in radical feminist propaganda from a young age, as she is starting to develop her identity. Whether it's from a place of secretly craving male validation, or a general discomfort in the expectation of adhering to social norms, these girls hate girls for wanting to be a girl. The anti-pink movements, the scoff at the mention of liking heels or skirts, the claim that wearing makeup isn't empowering because it's feeding into the male gaze, disregarding the woman's choice and autonomy in the matter... it's all relative. Ultimately, Barbie's quote about how women seem to hate her almost as men is what pushed me into getting those watery eyes. Because she's right. And it's everywhere. I'm sure I've fed into that narrative, too. Anytime I've disliked a girl, it can be too easy to attack her on any basis - clothes, hair, style choices, the way she talks, the way she walks, what she chooses to do with her body. 

Michael Cera's Allan really sold the movie for me. Michael Cera has always had that awkward, odd charm about him that makes him an excellent supporting character in lighthearted films, or clumsy lead in indie movies. I appreciated his understated role in Barbie, as that was the point. He was the only one of his kind - not easily forgotten, but not the first to be remembered. Many feel that he was an allegory for a nonbinary character, while I feel he is meant to be whoever you feel he is. He's the standard non-standard: any person that is completely dissuaded by "the patriarchy" and marches to the beat of their own drum. While he added an idiosyncratic flair to the movie that helped to break up some of the tenseness of the deeper tones, he fit in with the morale quite well. 

My only critique is how this message almost overran some elements of the movie that felt out-of-place, but this happened so infrequently that it's only a slight footnote. While it was meant to be political, as it was commentary on modern social issues, there were a couple scenes that took away from the reasons of its politics. It was political as it is commentary on the way those in power influence young minds and roles in society, NOT political for the sake of being controversial. I felt a little disappointed when a couple buzzwords were thrown around beyond the point of being ironic, as this was the type of movie that had multiple audiences: those who wanted it, and those that were to be surprised by it. The multiple mentions of fascism and conservatives felt more like poking a bear than honest elements of the movie, which was disheartening. 

I digress - the movie was phenomenal. If you haven't watched it, you should. Man, woman, or any place on the spectrum aside, I feel there is something for everyone to appreciate - especially Gen X and Millennials, who have grown up through the evolution of Barbie. 

Special thanks to Michael Cera and Allan.

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